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An initiative of hope, but not of reality (ISRAEL INSIDER COMMENTARY) By I. J. Mansdorf, PhD 11/19/03) Source: http://web.israelinsider.com/bin/en.jsp?enPage=ViewsPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=object&enDispWho=Article%5El2988&enZone=Views&enVersion=0& ISRAEL INSIDER ISRAEL INSIDER Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Israelis checking their mailboxes this week are finding copies of the "Geneva Initiative," an agreement of sorts with the Palestinians promoted by Israelīs left. Along with another grassroots initiative led by Danny Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh, which some 150,000 Israelis and Palestinians already signed, some feel that there is hope for reconciliation after three years of terror and untold years of confrontation.

The centerpiece of both agreements is Israelīs withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and the dismantlement of most of the settlements that have served as the focal point for Palestinian rage. Despite the hope both initiatives present, the average Israeli continues to personally cope with the risks posed as constant targets of terror. And, on a more existential level, the conflict has led Israelis to be aware of and troubled by a more subtle and insidious threat that withdrawal from the territories does not solve, that being the perceived refusal of the Arab world to come to terms with the presence of Israel as a Jewish state. It is that realization that is shaping the collective consciousness of the average Israeli looking ahead.

The bottom line for many Israelis is that they do indeed believe that the conflict and resulting terror is about land, but not about the occupation.

To these Israelis, terror is the symptom, not the disease. The basic reason for the conflict remains as it was in 1948, 1967, and beyond; the Arab and Islamic worldīs rejection of a sovereign, Jewish presence within their midst. This despite the conventional wisdom of pundits far and wide who have linked peace with the need to move Israelis out of the "occupied territories."

But despite consistent Israeli actions ending occupation of Arab land in the past; peace has yet to be realized.

Letīs start with the last occupation to end, that of southern Lebanon. Since withdrawing from all Lebanese territory in May 2000, Hizbullah terrorists have continued to carry out attacks against Israelis, ranging from planting roadside bombs to kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers.

While many speak of Israel flaunting "international law," the attacks from Lebanon continue despite the Israeli withdrawal, with even the United Nations certifying that Israel has withdrawn from every last inch of Lebanese soil. If the issue was really "occupation," why does violence from Lebanon still pose a threat?

The same could be asked of the Palestinians who enjoyed an occupation- free existence when Israeli troops withdrew from most Palestinian population centers during the period following the Oslo accords. No Israeli soldiers were in Gaza, Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah or scores of other Palestinian cities and villages. There were no fences separating Israel from the Palestinian territories or cutting Palestinian villagers off from their land. Jews and Arabs moved freely between Israeli and Palestinian towns. Occupation was indeed ending and the "peace camp" members now promoting private initiatives were members of the governments of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but terror broke out nevertheless.

Many Israelis see this as evidence that their presence in the region is what is at issue, and not their presence in the West Bank and Gaza. What else explains continued Palestinian tolerance for groups that formally call for Israelīs destruction? What explains the rampant anti-Semitism in the Egyptian press and amongst Egyptian intellectuals? Egypt, the largest Arab country, and the one that signed a peace treaty based on "land for peace," has not been occupied for more than 20 years, yet continues in a "cold peace" and has failed to stop the smuggling of weapons and materiel from its territory into the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians, who consider themselves part of the "Arab and Islamic nations," certainly do not feel what more and more Israelis are feeling, that their very existence is an affront to the Arab world. Witness this recent statement by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei: "The words of President Bush that Israel is a Jewish state, aroused great concern among us. These words should not have been said."

But despite it all, for all those who continue to feel that the problem is the occupation, the good news is that few Israelis favor it.

The bad news is that even fewer believe that ending it will truly bring peace. (Đ 2001-2003 Koret Communications Ltd. 11/19/03)

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