Ro'i Ben Horin: My view is a bit different. We will withdraw from all the territories, after some kind of disaster. From Sinai we have withdrawn after Yom Kippur, from Lebanon after intolerable casualties, from Gaza because the economic price was intolerable. We will not withdraw until the non-withdrawal causes great damage. I am following the economic pages and the reports on the deterioration of the Dollar, and this has a direct influence on us. But I think we will not withdraw before missiles fall on Tel Aviv.
Eitan Kalinsly: In a grammar lesson at the Tel Hai College I wrote on the blackboard: “It is Good to Live for Our Country" –“Good” is the subject and “Live” is the predicate. But the heroic lion on the Tel Hai monument woke up roaring and burst into the classroom and wiped my words away and wrote “It is Good to Die for Our Country" –“Good” is the subject and “Die ” is the predicate.
The Wise Man and the Stupid, what do they say? The Stupid: There is no one to talk to and nothing to talk about. If you don’t like the terms offered, there is an ethnic cleansing truck waiting for you outside. The Wise Man: We are brothers, we will not hurt each other.
Boka’i: I am not used to speak to an audience. I would like to represent a part of the population which I know well, the disabled IDF soldiers. I am myself a 64% handicapped former Air Force pilot and holder of the Decoration of Valour. I am very disappointed. I used to follow with great appreciation the articles of Uri Avnery in Haolam Hazeh Weekly. It gave me the feeling that somebody with a common sense would lead us somewhere. It did not happen, I am sorry to say, because fear gripped the people in the country. Everybody wants peace but is also afraid of it.
In 1948 it was decided to divide the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River into two states. Not only the Palestinians but also all the Arab countries opposed. The Semitic Region? Yes, we wanted to be Western. But we remained a minority. I mean, a minority among the Jewish people. This was supposed to be the state of the Jewish people, but there came here only five million Jews, fourteen millions did not come. It is not so nice to come and live among millions of Arabs who don’t exactly love us.
After the peace with Egypt Israelis did not go to visit there, not ten percent of the number who go to Turkey every year. The same with Jordan.
Jews are racists by nature. That is what preserved us in the diaspora, otherwise we would have been assimilated long ago. In other places they have built ghettos for themselves, yes they themselves built the ghettos, and here they surround themselves with fences.
Teddy Katz: With all due respect, you are not one of the speakers. Please approach the end, there are others also waiting to take the floor.
Boka’i: One more moment please, I would like to clarify the idea. My hope of Condoleezza was that two states for two peoples would solve also the problem of a million and half Palestinians inside Israel. They have Israeli identity cards, which were given to them in order to annex them de-facto after 1948 like King Abdullah gave Jordanian citizenship in Judea and Samaria.
Therefore, it is possible to live with them in peace, but only under conditions of two national states, a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. The settlers would live in the Palestinian state under a Palestinian rule and subject to Palestinian rule, but as Israeli citizens, and the Palestinians in the Galilee would be permanent residents of Israel but will no longer vote to the Knesset. [Angry mutterings in the audience]
Yermi Epstein: Two small remarks. First, the [Peace Now] badge with the bullet and the pen, face to face, is a good idea after all. You should not all the time say just “no” and “no”. The hall here is not completely full
Call: That’s the rain!
Yermi Epstein: There should be projects reaching a wider audience. The message of a pen facing a bullet is something which everybody could put on his car. A message of talking to Hamas is very extremist. It would not help if we remain a small closed circle.
I am in favour of Annapolis, yes I am. Perhaps, as Gideon [Levy] said it would reveal something of what they try to hide. Perhaps it would help and perhaps not, but it is worthwhile to try anything which might help, because the present situation is not good.
N.: I am 18 years old. In two weeks from now I have an appointment with a military Mental Health Officer in order to finally my psychiatric discharge from military service. This is my contribution to the struggle against the occupation, not to serve this nastiness - not at any price. In my Tel Aviv highschool there was a very big gap between what I learned about Rabin and what Rabin has done in real life. They talked very much of Rabin, but they did not talk of peace. I went to to an alternative memorial service to Rabin at the Tmuna Theatre, there they said what was missing in the official ceremony.
I went to A-Ram to an event of Combatants for Peace, the organization bringing together ex-fighters from both sides to now talk to each other. Behind me there were women who had spoken of helping the Palestinians in the olive harvest and they spoke of how miserable the Palestinians are. And I say that they are not miserable, they don’t define themselves as miserable and don’t ask for pity. They are struggling, they are proud, and that is their greatness.
By the way, Israel is divided against itself and I saw it also here in this meeting. Boka’i stood here and said things which the others did not like and there were almost stones thrown at him.
After the meeting in A-Ram I continued by bus to the Rabin Square, to the support rally for the striking highschool teachers. With the kind of education we get nowadays, my friends don’t understand what is wrong with joining the Golani Brigade. They are going to throw one-ton bombs on civilian homes and don’t understand what is wrong with that.
I, too, am a product of the nationalist education system of Limor Livnat, but still I achieved the understanding that I am not willing to have any role in the army, no role whatsoever. Also in an office job, I might find that I do nothing more than sit with a pen in an office and fill forms and suddenly I will find that I have a share in killing ten or a hundred people.
Our job is to gather people to meet with the other side without hesitation, and also go out into the streets with all our force, because the parliamentary route seems completely blocked.
Ron Weiss: First, I would like to tell Gideon Levy that we do have a lot of people who want peace. Of course, they also want the settlement blocks and don’t always understand the contradiction.
What interests Olmert most? Of course, to survive in power. After Annapolis we will conduct negotiations very slowly over two years, in order not to undermine the government coalition, and then when the legal elections time comes near Olmert will increase speed because he would need an agenda to present in the elections – and the agenda will include peace. Would he succeed – that is a different question.
Before coming here I was in the meeting of the Geneva Initiative on the same issue, at Sokolov House. They gave better food and drinks [laughter in the hall]. Yossi Beilin said there that even if Shas and Lieberman bolt the government, there are in the Knesset 65-70 mandates [out of 120] who would support a peace agreement.
I am often talking on the radio in call-in programs. I advice you to use every means we have to reach the media and express there our voice,
Honi: I would like to ask Uri Avnery about the genetic code of the Zionist movement. Is this not in contradiction with the fact that in opinion polls there is a majority for a solution not so different from what we here suggest. How could a movement have a genetic code which is opposed by its own people, that its people are in favour of peace?
About the Gaza Disengagement – even if there was no genuine wish for peace behind it, perhaps still the dismantling of settlements could have started a process which has a more far-reaching dynamics.
Neta, I heard you say that there is already an agreement with the Americans about dismantling 92% of the territory. I hope this is true! Let’s take Arafat, a man whom I regard as deserving of respect. He learned from the Zionists to take what is available and wait for an opportunity to get the rest. To dismantle the occupation by the salami method, first the Gaza Strip, then in most of the West Bank. And the time of the settlement blocks will also come.
Teddy Katz: Thanks to all who offered questions and remarks, and now I give the speakers the floor again, in the same order as of the original round.
Gideon Levy: I have nothing to add to what I said in the beginning.
Moria Shlomot: I must admit that I had been afraid that if I come here, everybody will attack me. I am glad this did not happen.
I will say this: whoever was convinced by me, there is on Saturday night a demonstration of Peace Now and the Geneva Initiative outside Olmert’s residence in Jerusalem, on the eve of his departure for Annapolis – demanding that he will make peace in acts and not in words.And whoever was not convinced, there is on the same Saturday night also a demonstration to protest the violence against women, which is just as important.
Gadi Elgazi: In my view, to say that the conflict is colonial is banal. The “single-person farms”, established for the exclusive benefit of Jewish farmers in both the South Hebron Hills and the Negev, are a colonial act. What are they if not a colonial act? When you speak land and water, you speak colonialism. The question is what kind of colonialism.
There is a colonialism which comes to exploit the indigenous labour force, and one which sets out to expel it, and the one which expels the indigenous population and then proceeds to import a cheap work power from elsewhere. For example, slaves from Africa, or workers from China. Or workers from Ethiopia. There are those who conduct a violent de-colonization, which does not necessarily brings an end to colonialism. In the decades of struggle on land and water many things happened which do not necessarily change the basic essence.
The connection between occupation and the whitewashing of occupation is not obvious to everybody. The left should have said the truth about Disengagement, even when it is not pleasant. I have failed to convince the Hadash and Balad parties that if they say that the Disengagement leaders to perpetuating the occupation, history will remember them. I also had a long debate on this with you, Uri. Instead of the bullet and pen of Peace Now I would have liked to suggest two signs: “There is no peace with settlements and “There is no Peace with Gaza”.
Whitewashing the settlements blocks has led to the disaster of today. We should learn from the Palestinians. To insist, forgive me for saying this, on the Green Line. You can’t restrict a peace movement to the role of cheer-leaders for American initiatives. Certainly not a left wing movement, and preferably also not opponents of the occupation.
Neta Golan: I would like to thank the guy who thinks that it is possible to dismantle the occupation by the “salami” method, for giving me an opportunity to explain better what is the problem with this approach. 80% of the settlers are on the western side of the Fence, which is not going to be evacuated. There are the settlers in the Jordan Valley who are not going anywhere, and they block the Palestinian access to the outside world.
There will be some tears of the most extreme settlers who will be evacuated, but what will be created in the end in the West Bank is like in Gaza, open air prisons. I and my girls will have to live like in the Gaza Model.
Yermi Epstein: it will provide a springboard!
Neta Golan: Tell this to the people in Gaza. The truth is that I knew in advance that it would be bad there, only I did not realize just how bad. I told myself – if they leave here [Ramallah] they will start shelling us, but at least we will not see roadblocks. But I did not think about hunger. So, thank you, no! I don’t want to see my daughters starving in the siege of Ramallah. Look, when they say that Israel will keep 5% of the West Bank, that does not include East Jerusalem. In their eyes, East Jerusalem is part of Israel, not of the West Bank. According to the data of the UN monitoring the situation, the Wall annexes 10.2% of the West Bank. This also does not include the Jordan Valley.
Moria mentioned that she was not so much attacked, and this reminds me to attack Peace Now about something which is already making me angry for a ling time. Peace Now publishes that the number of settlers is 270,000, which ignores another 140,000 settlers in East Jerusalem. The Central Bureau of Statistics is an Israeli governmental institute and it does not count the Israelis living on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem as settlers. So Peace Now uses these data, and it also does not not count them as settlers. East Jerusalem is already “concensus”.
The importance is the percetnage of land which is evacuated, but the strategic location. Ma’aleh Adumim cuts the West Bank in two, that is what it was created. Ariel connects to the Jordan Valley, and thus cuts the West bank in half again.
They talk of trading a territory for a territory. What exchange is that? They intend to give in exchange to the settlement blocks areas inhabited by Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Umm al Fahm area. Of course, they would have liked to make such a deal and reduce the number of Palestinians who vote to the Knesset and have civil rights. And if this does not succeed, they would give desert territory in the Negev. If they would like to give territory of equal worth, they should have given an area which cuts Israel in two and than another territory which cuts one of the halfs of Israel in two again.
The settlement blocks surround Jerusalem from all sides, some of them are called settlements blocks and others are simply called Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, but there is no practical difference. Palestinian East Jerusalem is surrounded with settlement blocks. And also the Wall around Jerusalem will stay.
Once, when the World Bank made a projection about the economy of the future Palestinian state, the prediction assumed that about forty percent of its income will come from Jerusalem – tourism, pilgrimage etc. But when a Palestinian will need an israeli permit in order to reach Jerusalem, there will be no economic income. There will be scorched earth, without a possibility of economic development, without a new construction, because all the territory around will be under a strangulating hold of Israel.
When you build a prison, the guards need to control only one percent – the outer walls, the entrances and exists, the doors and the windows. This is enough to ensure that the people inside will remain imprisoned, even when they have 99% of the prison territory.
Call: Jerusalem will be divided, this is inevitable.
Neta Golan: They will say that this is a sovereign Palestinian territory, but in order to get in and out an Israeli permit will be needed.
Uri Avnery: The colonial issue is more complicated than just semantics. There is in Zionism a clear colonialist component. Herzl and the other founders of Zionism lived in the peak period of colonialism. Herzl wanted to meet the arch-colonialist Cecil Rhodes (Rhodes did not want to meet him). But colonialism is not the main component of Zionism.
About the disengagement: I had no illusions about Sharon’s Disengagement, because I knew Sharon. It was like in the peace with Egypt, where Begin’s intention was to make a separate peace and exclude Egypt from the circle of the conflict, so as to continue the settlements, the war against the Palestinians. Shaorn had a similar aim, to sacrifice – from his point of view – the settlements in the Gaza Strip in order to concentrate on the most vital, i.e. the West Bank.
Nevertheless, the Disengagement had a positive side, a clear proof that it is possible to remove settlement and get rid of them and it does not turn the world upside down. And this was left in the public consciousness as a very important precedent.
About Honi’s question: true, there is the Israeli mystery, the genetic code pushing towards conquest and occupation and settlement and on the other hand opinion polls showing a clear majority for leaving the territory.
The Israeli problem is the fear of the Arabs. Israelis fear the Arabs, distrust them and are afraid to make peace. They perceive themselves as living in “a villa in the jungle. This is, in my view. A rationalization of this genetic code.
Most Israelis want to make peace. The problem is what is our role, how much are we able to turn this potential into actuality, to achieve one big peace movement beyond the many small group which do wonderful work but are not able to gain the attention of the mass media which is the only way of communicating to the general public. There are much wider circles, far beyond the kind of public which is present here in this hall. The hundred thousand which fill every year the Rabin Square for the annual memorials are in principle our public. The question is how to reach them.
Ro’i Ben Horin: After there will happen another Yom Kippur-style disaster there will also arise a giant peace movement, but for many dead people it will be too late.
Uri Avnery: I am optimistic by nature. We should beware of thinking in terms that only what exists in the present is what will remain in the future. Even when the situation becomes worse by the day, nothing is irreversible – unlike what Meron Benbenishti said once. I have a piece of the Berlin Wall which is for me positive proof that even what seems eternal can suddenly collapse, when nobody dreamed it can happen. The one who gets the concession to sell pieces of the Israeli Wall will make a fortune one day.
I definitely agree that we should “Insist on the Green Line”. We don’t recognize or whitewash any settlement blocks. I am very sorry that our friend Yossi Beilin is the one who invented the term “settlement blocks” in the agreement with Abu Mazen ten years ago, like Haim Ramon invented the Separation Wall. It is a pity that people who consider themselves as peace seekers are coming up with the worst and most damaging inventions.
Our minds should be liberated from any recognition of accomplished facts which were created on the ground. We will not recognize settlements in Jerusalem or anywhere else, unless in free negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian readerships there will be agreed a reasonable exchange of territory. We can’t dictate what would be agreed and what would not be agreed in negotiations.
Teddy Katz: Thanks again for being here with us. I hope that this evening has given you food for thought. Of course, we must always remember that the main thing is to continue the struggle on the ground – whatever the results of Annapolis, if any.