The following response to a recent editorial was submitted to the Seattle Times by Ira Sharkansky, professor of political science at Hebrew University and author of Coping with Terror: An Israeli Perspective (Lexington Books, 2003).
The Times declined to publish or even acknowledge the submission.
My latest disappointment comes from your editorial, “Tough Guys Talk Peace,” praising the criticism of Israeli government policy from four former heads of the General Security Service (Shin Bet).
We saw one of the four former heads on television. He seemed too old for the assignment. The journalist who interviewed him had to finish a number of his sentences. He asserted that he was so long out of office that he could not offer advice to the present incumbent, but then offered some of the standard platitudes as his advice. He said that Israel must think about the needs and feelings of the Palestinians. Another of the four has begun a political career. He was elected head of a Yuppie-populated suburb of Jerusalem where criticism of government policy is conventional wisdom. Yet another has been pursuing his own well publicized peace deal with the head of a Palestinian university.
The present head of the General Security Service argues that the Palestinians have yet to forego a policy of terror, and that Israel must be forceful in protecting its citizens.
What is lacking in the views of otherwise distinguished papers and columnists is a recognition that Israel offered the Palestinians practically all that they demanded in their meetings at Camp David and Taba in the summer of 2000. Instead of pursuing further negotiations, the Palestinian responded with violence.
It is not only leading figures in American and European media who look to Israel to offer more without recognizing that Israel had offered more. What is called the “Geneva agreement” is being promoted by a group of former Israeli office holders with substantial financing from European governments. Their product is a virtual copy of the former government’s offers of the year 2000. While the offer in 2000 then had the support of a thin Israeli majority according to public opinion polls, more recent indications of public feeling—and election results—suggest that the Palestinians will not get another chance to consider what they rejected three years ago. The individuals promoting the relic from the year 2000 include a former foreign minister, a former chair of the Knesset, and a former chair of the Labor Party. They each have been repudiated by their own left of center political party for holding to postures now considered irresponsible.
Israeli centrists who once supported the offer of 2000, as well as those further to the right, want Palestinians to stop using school books that portray all of Israel as Palestine and to stop inciting young people to become suicide bombers. A reasonable demand of the current Israeli government—and the United States—is that Palestinian authorities make an initial step toward peace by acting forcefully against the numerous sources of their violence.
We argue a great deal about what we should—and should not—do for the Palestinians and ourselves. Former officials who oppose policy reflect what is strong rather than what is weak in Israel. A cultural trait of severe self-criticism draws on ancient roots. The Book of Jeremiah describes a chronic dissident who urged soldiers not to resist the Babylonian onslaught, yet was given refuge by the king against officials who wanted him killed as a traitor. With a man like Jeremiah revered as a spokesman of the Almighty, what else can we expect from a handful of former office holders.
Palestinians and other Muslims would profit if they could acquire a greater degree of self-criticism. And if that happens, we Jews can get ready for the Messiah.Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at December 03, 2003 11:15 AM