There is something liberating in the truth, even a difficult one.
Since the early 1990’s, the Israeli society has been accustomed to a complex view of reality, which is highly confusing. In its core there was a tireless strive for peace, which somehow never materializes: We want to return the Golan Heights, but it doesn’t work out. We finally withdraw from Lebanon, but leave a friction point in Mount Dov (Shebaa farm), which just might be what will ignite the next war with Syria. We agree to return to the Palestinians most of the lands occupied in 1967, but in the meantime we confiscate more and more lands and double the settlements.
But now, all of a sudden, everything turned simple and clear. Sharon, in a surprisingly candid interview with Ari Shavit (Ha’aretz, weekend supplement, 13.4.01), decided to tell the people the truth.
Like his predecessors, Sharon too claims that the Arab world isn’t yet ripe for peace, but unlike his predecessors, he openly reveals that no change in the Arab world will bring Israel to give up one inch of land. Even in exchange for peace with Syria “we cannot leave the Golan Heights.” As for the Palestinians, if all of Sharon’s demands are fulfilled, he will consider allowing them to control 42 percent of the occupied territories (“I did not say 50 percent. I said 42 percent”). In any case, no agreement will include evacuation of settlements – “Is it possible today to concede control of the hill aquifer [in the West Bank], which supplies a third of our water? Is it possible to concede the buffer zone in the Jordan Rift Valley?” “Netzarim has tremendous security importance” and as for Hebron, “the Tomb of the Patriarchs is located in Hebron. […] These are our deepest roots”.
There is nothing new in these words. The matrix of Israeli control of the occupied territories which Sharon describes is identical to the “Alon plus plan” which in turn is identical to the “Sharon plan”, and as Sharon emphasized in the interview, all Israeli governments since 1967 have acted to implement these plans. Netzarim, e.g. was not established by chance. “It was established as part of a conception that a buffer should be created between Khan Yunis and Gaza City and that we should have access from the Green Line to the coast”.
The only new thing is the openness – the decision to tell the truth. Since Oslo, Rabin, Barak and Sharon acted (with coordination behind the screens) to enlarge and enhance the Israeli control blocks. In an interview in ‘Davar’ in July 1994, Sharon explained that the settlements and roads plan which Rabin was implementing in the territories since Oslo is exactly that which Sharon suggested in 1974, and he even complimented Rabin for his cunning: “Some think that Rabin gave the Palestinians who-knows-what. Nonsense! These things are done cunningly.” After seven years of cunning, the Palestinians in the occupied territories were already robbed of 50 percent of their land, and it is now possible to strive towards the next goal, of leaving them with 42 percent.
Now the era of cunning is over. Sharon, freed of the burden of the left voters and the constant need to lie, phrases clearly the world view of the Palmah (‘striking forces’, pre-state military legions) and IDF commanders who, for years, are controlling the Israeli political system. In this world view, everything is entangled into one romantic framework: the fields, the blossom of the orchards, the plough and the wars.
The heart of this ideology is the sanctity of the land. “When Sadat would tell me that for the Arabs land is sacred, that made me envious”, Sharon confesses, “People today don’t get so excited by the idea of ‘another dunam and another dunam’ [of land]. But I still get excited”.
And land should be fought over forever. “The War of Independence has not ended”, and will, perhaps, go on for ever. “A normal people does not ask questions like ‘will we always live by the sword’ […] the sword is part of life.”
Those who are excited by the sanctity of the land, will never be satisfied with what they have. There are many Palestinian dunams still waiting to be redeemed – a dunam in Khan Yunes, a dunam in Rafah, the outskirts of Beit Jalla and Abu Sneina of the holy city of Hebron. One by one, they will be redeemed by the heroes of the Palmah and added to the “security strips” – lands free of Arabs.
The truth is liberating. Now, at least, those who will go to reserve service will know what they are fighting for. The choice is clear. The thousands who evade reserve duty have voted with their feet.
Tanya Reinhart is a professor in Tel Aviv University.