Death of a Whale


“Like a whale that has lost its sense of direction, you are storming the shore, storming it again and again, wanting to commit suicide!” cried Haim Ramon excitedly from the rostrum of the Labor party to his party colleagues, in one of the great moments of his life.

That was in January 1994. Ramon was then Minister of Health. He wanted to enact a National Health Insurance law, contrary to the will of his colleagues. “I, with my limited power, am pushing you back into the sea. And you do not want to go, and you do not want to go. You insist on committing suicide!”

Now Ramon is pushing in the opposite direction. He is trying to beach the whale.

He is doing this by promoting a political plan that bears the grandiose title “Unilateral Separation”. Israel will not conduct any negotiations with the Palestinians and will make no effort to reach an agreement with them. It will withdraw the army unilaterally from most of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, deciding on its own where the border between itself and the Palestinian territory will be. The settlements, where most of the settlers live, will be annexed to Israel, the others will be evacuated. Between Israel and the Palestinian territories a barrier will be erected that will be defended by the army. All the other issues will be postponed indefinitely, until the Palestinians are ready to accept the Israeli terms.

That sounds logical and looks simple. It’s exactly what is likely to convince those who do not want to get to the bottom of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it is far from simple.

Of course, the Palestinians will not accept any Israeli plan that will be executed without agreement and without negotiations. If there were any chance of the Palestinians accepting this plan, there would be negotiations about it. The very fact that the idea of negotiations is being rejected shows that there is no chance of it’s being accepted by the other side.

For lack of having any alternative, the Palestinians will resist, of course, by the force of arms to a plan that will wrench away great tracts of the land on which they want to set up their state (which comprises, one must remember, only 22% of what was Palestine before 1947). The game of percentages (“only 10%”, “only 8%”) is ludicrous é it’s not only percentages that counts, but their location. The “settlement blocs” cut, and not by accident, deep into the Palestinian territory and tear it apart.

It is not by accident, either, that Ramon has not produced a map é and neither has anyone of the other proponents of this plan.

Every Palestinian understands that the “temporary” line will become a permanent border, along which new settlements will spring up. It will be impossible to move this border in the future without war. Therefore, a permanent state of war will prevail. The “Ramon Line” will not stop suicide bombers, mortars and Katyushas.

On the other hand é the idea that the settlers will evacuate dozens of settlements without armed resistance is a pipe-dream. There is at present no government in Israel é neither of the Likud, nor of Labor, nor of both together é that would dare to remove even one single settlement for such a plan.

This is a hopeless plan. So why does Ramon put it forward? He does not seriously intend it to be executed. It serves a quite different purpose: to help him to return to a central position in his party, among whose ruins people like Burg, Ben-Eliezer, not to mention Peres, are running amok. Ramon has almost been forgotten. He hopes to return with the help of a grandiose plan and a “public movement”.

The same hope lives in the heart of the real author of this plan, Shlomo Ben-Ami. His is a sad story. The boy from a Moroccan harbor-town has become a brilliant professor of modern Spanish history, a friend of kings and nobles, and looked like a rising star on the firmament of the party. Unfortunately he succumbed to the temptation of joining the disastrous Barak government. He stood at Barak’s side when the former Chief-of-Staff, with a mixture of baseless arrogance and hopeless ignorance, caused the collapse of the negotiations with the Palestinians. In order to exonerate himself and his boss, Ben-Ami spread the mendacious legends of the “generous Barak offers” and “Arafat does not want peace”. The new plan is based on this misrepresentation.

But é if this is the crux of the matter – if there is no partner for peace, if an eternal war is expected é who needs Ramon and Ben-Ami? Who needs the pitiful Labor Party? If this is so, the people will elect Sharon, or worse é Netanyahu, or even worse é one of the prophets of “transfer”.

How did Ramon put it when he spoke about the Labor Party seven years ago? “Like a whale that has lost its sense of direction, you want to commit suicide!”