2005-06-06

Ya'alon interview

Interviews with top IDF officers often yield interesting insights into the Israeli–Palestinian conflict —this is no exception. Here's an excerpt:
Overall, are we headed for a situation of dividing the land?
"In the past decade, the government of Israel and Israeli society decided to divide the land. In the present reality, I see difficulty in producing a stable situation of end-of-conflict within that paradigm."

I am not sure I understand what you mean.
"We are talking about a viable Palestinian state. Those kinds of situations can be created in Europe: Monaco, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg. But here the situation is different. The Palestinian side does not harbor a feeling of thus far and no farther - not even in regard to the 1967 borders. They are talking about Safed and Haifa and Tel Aviv. And economically, too, Judea and Samaria and Gaza are not a viable state."

So are you saying that the thought that a two-state solution is within reach, is incompatible with reality?
"That paradigm does not bring about stability, no."

You maintain that the two-state solution cannot work. You maintain that what is agreed by the whole world and a large part of the Israeli public is without foundation.
"It is not relevant. Not relevant. It is a story that the Western world tells with Western eyes. And that story does not comprehend the scale of the gap and the scale of the problem. We too are sweeping it under the carpet."

What will happen if the world nevertheless imposes a two-state solution in the years ahead?
"It is difficult to impose things that have no foundation. Something that is imposed and is unstable blows up."

What alternative paradigm do you posit in place of the two-state paradigm?
"The paradigm of a far longer process. Far longer. One that obliges above all a revolution of values by the other side. Another possibility is to go beyond the paradigm of the Western Land of Israel, to enter into regional solutions."

Are you proposing to give the Palestinians land that is beyond the Western Land of Israel?
"We were in that situation before 1967: the West Bank was connected to Jordan, the Gaza Strip to Egypt. Today it is not relevant. But let us not delude ourselves. I do not see stability in the present paradigm and in the present state of affairs. I do not see a conclusion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in my generation."

Is the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and in 85 to 100 percent of the West Bank not feasible?
"That is an idea that does not bring about a stable situation. No. We can go for that, but from there the confrontation will continue."

So the establishment of that Palestinian state will lead to war?
"Yes, at some stage."

Could that war be dangerous for Israel?
"Of course."

Can the establishment of a Palestinian state in the present conditions create a semi-existential threat to Israel?
"If that solution were to be imposed tomorrow morning it would bring about the continuation of the irredentism, the continuation of the conflict."

Is the idea that a Palestinian state can be established during the current term of office of U.S. President Bush, and stability achieved, divorced from reality?
"Divorced from reality."

And dangerous?
"Dangerous, of course."

If a Palestinian state is established now, will it necessarily be a hostile state?
"It will be a state that will try to undermine Israel. As long as there is no internalization of our right to exist as a Jewish state, and as long as there is insistence on concrete elements of the right of return, any such agreement will be like the construction of a house in which you plant a bomb. At some stage, the bomb will explode."

So what you are saying is that the idea of an immediate Palestinian state and of a two-state solution is a mirage.
"We have created a paradigm that generates an illusion. We have to think in long-term historical terms. Think about a lengthy process. Not something that is finished here and now and gives us an end to the conflict. There is no such solution now."

I believe Ya'alon is correct that the two-state "solution" really isn't a solution at all, though it may be part of a solution. The real, avoidable danger lurking ahead lies in creating and sustaining the idea that the creation of a viable Palestinian state will be a solution to the conflict: when that state is created without an end of conflict, shattering that expectation will result in more severe consequences than would have occurred otherwise. Hope becomes dangerous when we make expectations of it.

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