Sharon and Barak as Creative Thinkers?

After 19 months of “zigzagging”, Barak finally shows where he really belongs: alongside Sharon, just as he was when they invaded Lebanon. This apparently quick flip of Barak’s confirms that he always intended not to “build peace”, but to take advantage of peace talks to continue Sharon’s policy of building colonies on expropriated Palestinian land; strengthening Israel’s stranglehold on Palestinian lives and land; and making sure that any attempt at a real and just peace would be almost impossible. Under the lopsided proposal, no contiguous and viable sovereign Palestinian state could ever exist. Arafat has been vilified for it. By refusing to seal the legitimization of Israel’s expansionist and illegal policies, Arafat gave peace a chance.

Barak claimed that he left no stone unturned. Not so. Israelis have been raised by the military to be fighters. “The Youth Corps, another IDF ‘functional command,’ consisted in 1988 of more than 30,000 young men and women aged fourteen to seventeen, who were formed into battalions, each under the command of an IDF captain. One of numerous youth groups, Gadna was administered by the Ministry of Education and Culture, with IDF officers serving as advisers to the ministry. Obligatory for most secondary-school students, Gadna introduced them to the common Israeli experience of army life and indoctrinated them as to Israel’s special security situation. Time spent in training increased from fifteen days yearly plus one hour per week during the ninth year of school to roughly forty days a year in the twelfth year of school.” (Federal Research Div). This military training given at a most vulnerable and receptive age, colours the children’s outlook for life about Israel’s rights to Palestine (Eretz Yisrael) and their “enemies’ hatred, aggression, and illegitimate and unreasonable demands”, which later translates into soldiers killing “the enemy” with no hesitation or remorse.

It should be expected of any Israeli government who is really seeking peace to start reverting the hatred towards “the enemy” that is drilled into the Israeli youth and to tell the truth about how Israel came into being. Contrary to other colonial movements of the 19th and earlier 20th century, Zionism was not merely to exploit the Palestinian people but to eradicate the Palestinian population and substitute an entirely new settler population. Israel should accept responsibility for the refugees its ideology has created. Unless it commits to public peace education, the sustainability of any future peace will be questionable because signed agreements would be a leaders’ peace without grassroots support.

Israelis have to undergo some deep psychological transformation in order to shed their siege mentality and see Palestinians as partners. They have to accept that although they consider themselves part of the Western liberal world, their interests and their future rest within the Middle East for obvious geographical reasons. Israel will always have common borders with Arab states, and it has to accept this too. The main issue that blocks regional cooperation is the Palestinian’s unresolved situation. At a time when countries are forming alliances to successfully compete on the world market, it doesn’t appear logical for Israel, a nuclear power, to consider that borders can be made safe for ever by violence. Other countries have found that economic cooperation is more of an incentive than aggression.

Israel should deal with the Palestinian people as equals and act with them accordingly, instead of nickel-and-diming them for pieces of land. The remnants of yesterday’s team are now in power. Will they be able to shed their intransigent stance, or will they keep their militaristic frame of mind and usher in more mayhem and hardship for all? Will they be able to do some creative thinking and reassess Israel’s options? Will they be able to articulate a new vision for the 21st century, not merely a throw back to the 19th? The duo Sharon-Barak does not seem poised to seriously give peace a chance. The next few months will tell. I am holding my breath.

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