Today's date:
Winter 2001

A Broken Peace

Nabil Shaath, Shimon Peres, Natan Sharansky

Who, at first, thought they could ever imagine the Arafat-Rabin handshake on the White House lawn? Now, who, after the Oslo Accords, could have imagined Israel shelling Jericho's casinos or Arafat once again brandishing a submachine gun? These contributions by three key players in the Middle East look at the shards of a broken peace.

With Violence, Barak Stakes Claim to Haram Al-Sharif
Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian minister of industry and planning, is one of Yasser Arafat's top aides and negotiators with Israel.

Gaza - There is no shade of doubt that the Israelis created this whole situation for very obvious reasons: To stake their claim over the Haram al Sharif. They want to show that they control it, that they can bring in whomever they want or prevent whomever they want from entering this Islamic holy site. They want to create a situation in which they can enforce their demands in the peace process. They want to teach the Palestinians a lesson: Any protest, however low key and however low the level of violence, will be met with debilitating force that kills and maims without constraint.

I mean Barak, too. Ariel Sharon could not have gone to the Haram al Sharif-with a thousand soldiers accompanying him on the Haram itself, with 2000 other soldiers surrounding the area and shooting at will the next morning -without Prime Minster Ehud Barak's acceptance.

The Palestinians have been accused of fomenting this violence in order to strengthen our bargaining position in the peace talks when, in fact, it is the Israeli side that has done so.

CONTROLLING THE VIOLENCE | Is it less serious that Israeli soldiers and police are firing upon unarmed Palestinians than that Palestinian police are firing on heavily armed Israeli troops? Is it not reasonable to see the other side of the picture Barak is trying to paint? Here is an occupation army with massive force, shooting to kill. Can't the world see this imbalance of force?

I don't know how people can look at an occupying army and a people under occupation as somehow equal in terms of force.

Here is the reality: Arafat leads a people with very limited military and security resources. The best bet at protesting is a very low-level mechanism of violence-throwing stones. Mr. Barak leads a huge army, the largest in the Middle East.
Let us put the question this way: Does Barak control his army or does Arafat control his people? Arafat does control his people-but only up to a certain threshold, after which Arafat cannot. If this attack continues, he cannot. Arafat can control his people only if there is a reasonable chance to lead them to peace or to war. But what he cannot do is lead them in between.

END OF NEGOTIATIONS | We cannot continue these negotiations when Barak turns to the massive use of force when things don't go his way, particularly on the Haram al Sharif, where he sent Sharon with all his soldiers.
The status of Jerusalem cannot be determined this way, because the solution is supposed to be permanent. Arafat's ability to continue the negotiations is diminished unless he can show his people that Israelis will not use force.

Arafat Remains a Partner in Peace-Barely
Shimon Peres is the former prime minister of Israel and shares a Nobel Peace Prize with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Peres is currently minister of international cooperation.

Tel Aviv-Yasser Arafat controls the violence militarily, because part of his police force is participating in the violence. And they are under his direct control. He also controls the militias. Politically, his people listen to him. And he hasn't called for an end to violence.

On the contrary, Palestinian radio and TV have called for the renewal of the "intifada" and for the use of force. This is in complete contradiction to everything done since Oslo.

Clearly, Israel didn't initiate this violence. We are reacting. We are trying to stop it. We cannot sit down at the negotiating table with Arafat without bringing back the minimum of tranquillity.

The Palestinian leaders say they have mainly rocks and a few Molotov cocktails against heavily armed troops, tanks and helicopter gunships. Why should they use even rocks? We had an agreement since Oslo that all disagreements will be aired out by dialogue, not by stones.

Arafat wants to mix a little bit of terror with a little bit of peace process. But can you combine fire and water?

I'm afraid he has committed a big mistake, and it will be the third time for the Palestinians. Arafat seems bound and determined to fulfill former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban's old saying, "The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

First, in 1948, the Palestinians could have had a state by UN resolution, but went to war instead and lost part of their land and created the refugee situation. Today we are still paying for this mistake.

In 1996 just after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated and I became prime minister, there was an outburst of Palestinian terror and violence. Arafat didn't stop the violence in time, and as a result I lost the elections. Another government came in, and years were wasted.

Now, again, they are stretching the patience of the Israeli side too much, to the point that all of us will pay. Never before were the Palestinians offered as much as during the last Camp David summit-over 90 percent of the land, recognition of the Palestinian state, a presence in Jerusalem and economic independence.
No doubt Arafat wants more. But he will not get it by force of violence. He cannot impose the solution he wants upon us, and we cannot impose on him.
If we don't have an agreement, the right thing to do is return to the negotiating table, not stoke a new intifada.

The Palestinians have called Israeli actions an "act of war." But, a war without declaration-which the Palestinian leaders have done by encouraging a new intifada-is not a better situation than a declaration of war.

To compare this uprising with the original one nine years ago, then we had Israeli soldiers and police in Gaza, Nablus, Ramallah and Jericho. Now, there is no Israeli presence in their lands, in their cities. Why are they throwing stones again and firing bullets? What for?

Again, the question is not whether our reaction is excessive. The question is why we have to react at all.

ARIEL SHARON | It is true that none of this would be happening in the Middle East today if Ariel Sharon had not visited the Temple Mount. But Barak could not prevent that visit. Every citizen in Israel, Arab or Jew, has the right to visit there, and Sharon didn't go into the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Is that a reason for terror and violence in response? My God! I was not happy with Sharon's visit, but the government cannot prevent anybody from going there.
A general Middle Eastern war is not likely to break out because that depends on the support of a major superpower. With the disappearance of the Soviet Union, I don't see anybody supporting a war.

The level of weaponry-tanks and missiles-used by the Israelis to attack Palestinian targets in Ramallah has not been seen since the 1967 war.
PEACE IS NOT DEAD | You cannot kill peace any more than you can kill life, just as you can kill a person but you cannot kill life. You can kill a policeman, you can kill a terrorist, but you cannot kill the need for peace.

The two sides have had a glance at what we can expect when peace is no longer an option. Only from this despairing perspective am I assured that peace will prevail because, in the end, there is no alternative.

Barak Took the Wrong Path for Israel
Natan Sharansky, the former "refusenik" in the Soviet Union, is leader of the Yisrael Ba'aliy party in Israel.

Jerusalem-Last fall, Prime Minister Ehud Barak made a tragic mistake. With the formation of a national unity government well within his grasp, he chose instead to buy a few more weeks of time to explore the possibility of renewing negotiations with a man who has all but officially declared war on the State of Israel.
Not wanting to complicate his Herculean diplomatic efforts to "end the hundred-year conflict" with the Palestinians overnight, Barak has stubbornly refused to allow the military to take decisive action against a violent uprising whose aim is nothing less than the destruction of the Jewish state.

With his people under attack and his enemies emboldened with every passing day, Barak and his minions pathetically talk of the need to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.

While defenders of the government claim that "there is no alternative to Oslo," the Palestinian leadership is busy using every rock, bullet and bomb they have to prove them wrong. While we are convincing ourselves that it is only a matter of time before we will be back at the negotiating table, the Palestinian leaders are convincing their own people that it is only a matter of time before the Jews will be backed into the sea.
Ironically, the man who has repeatedly said that he would never sacrifice "the security, the unity and the sanctity of Israel" in an agreement with the Palestinians has sacrificed all of these without an agreement. In his desperate attempt to leave the door open for peace, he has undermined an Israeli deterrence that took decades to build, decided not to unite the country during a national emergency and failed to protect Jewish holy sites in the face of mob violence.

Sadly, after weeks of taking the moral high ground by claiming that all who opposed his efforts to forge national unity were placing their own interests above the interests of the country, the prime minister has done precisely that.

Not willing to retreat from the dangerous positions he took at Camp David, Barak and his government have proved that they are willing to sacrifice everything on the altar of the so-called peace process.

However disappointed I may be, I cannot say that I have been caught completely by surprise. Before he left for Camp David to make decisions that would affect this nation for generations to come, I pleaded with him to form a national unity government and resigned from the Interior Ministry when he declined to do so. I explained to him that a peace process that would affect the identity of an entire people must never be led by only half the nation.

But just as he refused then to recognize the cardinal importance of uniting the people of Israel in the pursuit of peace, he now fails to recognize the essential need for unity at such a perilous hour. One can only conclude from his recent negotiations with the Likud that he saw a national unity government not as an instrument for forging consensus within the nation, but merely as a means of ensuring his own political survival.

Those on the left who adamantly reject any attempt to join forces with Likud leader Ariel Sharon in order to keep open the option of making an agreement with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat have effectively said that a man who has devoted his life to the security of his nation is a less suitable partner than a man who has devoted his life to terrorizing it.

No doubt, the prime minister believes that when the sands run out in the hourglass of Shas (the religious party with whom he governs), he can always return to the "national unity" option. But though I have called for the formation of a national unity government since the day I entered political life, my confidence in Ehud Barak's ability to lead such a government has been severely shaken.

This is not the time for striking back-room political deals, nor the time to send emissaries to our enemies.

This is the time to unite the nation and take any and every action necessary to defend our country and its citizens.

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