- Palestinian-Israeli crossfire on
"Reoccupation: Israeli military government or functional division?"

October 14, 2002 Edition 37

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>< “A natural turn of events” - by Ghassan Khatib
The Israeli reoccupation of most of the Palestinian territories has created some significant questions about what comes next.

>< “You can't turn back the clock” - by Yossi Alpher
If Israel has to choose between expanding occupation into military government and something else--then it should opt for something else.

>< “Guarding our legitimacy” - by Samir Abdullah
No one wants to believe that we are back to square one after our ten-year investment in the peace process.

>< “Respect their philosophy of survival” - by Zvi Elpeleg
Dayan decided to dismantle the system of laws that had existed prior to 1967. This was mistaken policymaking.

A natural turn of events

by Ghassan Khatib

The Israeli reoccupation of most of the Palestinian territories, once under Palestinian Authority control according to the Oslo agreements, has created some significant questions about what comes next.

Prior to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority and before the peace process, Israel controlled in practice and by force almost every aspect of Palestinian life. That included control over land, borders, legislation, administration and services such as education, health, and so on. At a certain point, Israel even appointed Israeli officers to act in the position of Palestinian mayors. When the Oslo agreements were signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the areas of Israeli control were scaled back. The peace agreements began a process of territorial compromise, whereby the Palestinian Authority was controlling “A Areas,” while other parts of the territories remained under Israeli control. Further negotiations were to continue this transfer of territory from Israeli to Palestinian jurisdiction.

The Israeli Likud-led government headed by ideologue Ariel Sharon has very different ideas about the future of the Palestinian territories, on the other hand. Since the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967, it has promoted what has become known as “functional division.” Based on the ideology that the Jewish people have historic rights to all of Palestine, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip (which international law and Palestinians consider areas under belligerent occupation), the Likud opposes any territorial compromise. Now that it is in power, the Likud has regained direct military control over all of the territories, leaving for the Palestinian Authority the impossible function of daily administration. The Sharon government’s ultimate objective in this regard is either to force Palestinians to renegotiate for other arrangements that are based on functional compromise instead of territorial compromise--or simply to impose this division by force, which is what we are living through now.

As such, the Palestinian leadership has been left with one of two very tough choices: to adapt to this situation forced on it by Israel, and try to care for day-to-day Palestinian needs while sacrificing its political and security role (which it is not able to maintain anyway because of the imbalance of power), or to refuse these arrangements altogether. That would leave Israel with the option of either taking on both security and administrative responsibilities or leaving both behind, i.e., allowing the situation to return to that in force before September 29, 2000, which resulted from the implementation of the Oslo agreements.

It is highly expected that the Palestinian people and their leadership’s continued engagement in rejecting and resisting Israel’s occupation will leave no opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to maintain its administrative role and accept Israel’s imposed functional division. That would require either adapting to the occupation or making peace with it, neither of which suit the inclinations of the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people.

Indeed, running services under the occupation is a recipe for failure. Eventually, the continuation of these attempts will lose the public’s respect and support and, ultimately mean political suicide. That is why the Palestinian leadership now appears to be giving Arab and international diplomacy a chance to bring to an end this madness and extremism, before it places itself squarely in the camp of resistance and rejection of occupation, rather than the camp of those ready to adapt to military rule.-Published 14/10/02©

Ghassan Khatib is minister of labor in the new Palestinian Authority cabinet. He has served for many years as a political analyst and media contact.

You can't turn back the clock

by Yossi Alpher

The Israeli reoccupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a "luxury" reoccupation, wherein Israel has renewed military control but shuns civilian control. As a consequence, the day to day suffering and deprivation inflicted on the Palestinian population by the reoccupation are extreme. Israel is ostensibly maintaining a functional division: allowing Palestinian ministries and municipalities to run their education systems and sanitation services, provide security, put people back to work and administer welfare programs. Yet it simultaneously imposes military restrictions that prevent movement of people and goods and generally render a functional division impossible.

If reoccupation with functional divisions does not work due to security reasons, then perhaps the humanitarian thing to do is renew Israeli military government (which in the years leading up to its cancellation under Oslo, Israel euphemistically termed "civil administration"). Because Israel would be responsible for all services, schools would be open and some roadblocks removed; Palestinian freedom of movement could be to some degree restored and the Palestinian economy would benefit. Thus goes the reasoning of some Palestinians and Israelis who argue that we currently have no alternative.

Some of the Palestinian advocates of this position genuinely hope that a renewed military government would be a temporary measure, prior to a return to a negotiated peace process. But a growing number now totally despair of a two state solution. They simply prefer to bide their time under Israeli rule while Israeli settlements spread throughout the West Bank and the total Palestinian population comes to outnumber Israelis, before they begin a campaign against Israeli "apartheid" and simply demand "one man, one vote."

Some of the Israeli advocates of renewed military rule, backed by neo-conservatives in the Pentagon, argue that Israel should welcome the chance for an Israeli "MacArthur" to cultivate a genuinely democratic Palestinian political culture under Israeli tutelage, just as the United States did in occupied Japan and Germany after WWII, and soon may do in Iraq.

In even contemplating the idea of a renewed military government, there are a number of logistics issues to be noted. First, not all West Bank cities are under occupation: would an Israeli military government not include Jericho and Bethlehem, as well as the Gaza Strip cities--all currently administered, at least to some extent, by the Palestinian Authority? Then too, the restoration of military government is estimated to cost over $200 million a month--money which Israel, currently in its worst recession in 54 years, does not have.

At the political level, restoration of military government would severely damage Israel's already tarnished image on the international scene. The United Nations, the European Union, the moderate Arab countries, all of which have exercised restraint in criticizing Israeli anti-terrorism measures thus far, would see this new move, justifiably or not, as a total departure from an anti-terrorism war, a return to naked military conquest, and the deliberate dismantling of the "reform" process they have instituted and encouraged. The US administration, which is fully aware that most of the reforms remain stillborn, would nevertheless probably concur with its "Quartet" partners' criticism in response to Arab protests.

Perhaps most tellingly, at the Israeli-Palestinian bilateral level the new/old Israeli military governors would quickly learn that you can't turn back the clock. What worked relatively smoothly for some 20 years, from the conquest of the West Bank in 1967 to the outbreak of the first Intifada in 1987, will not work now. Two intifadas later, the Palestinian right to self-determination has become an integral element in the thinking of the international community, the Arab world, and indeed of most Israelis. Thus Palestinians would continue to oppose Israeli rule, with sweeping international support. And if most serious observers are skeptical about the American capacity to turn Iraq into a western democracy, yet muffle their criticism in deference to US megapower status, they will not hesitate to bring to bear the entire weight of the international community against a similar and outrageous Israeli attempt, if indeed it is undertaken under cover of military government, to cultivate a friendly Palestinian "democracy" in a truncated rump state whose borders are drawn by Sharon and the settlers.

If the present situation of reoccupation is untenable, a renewed peace process is impossible, and Israel has to choose between expanding occupation into military government and something else--then it should opt for something else: unilateral withdrawal, accompanied by the dismantling of outlying settlements and the building (which has begun) of security fences on or near the 1967 border with the West Bank. This would be a far healthier strategy for renewing the peace process and avoiding the "one man, one vote" trap. -Published 14/10/2002©

Yossi Alpher is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University.

Guarding our legitimacy

by Samir Abdullah

The near-total Israeli reoccupation of the West Bank and parts of the Gaza Strip has interrupted all aspects of Palestinian life, and resulted in tremendous material and psychological damage to Palestinian society. No one wants to believe that we are back to square one after our ten-year investment in the peace process. Most Palestinians are very pessimistic and feel that the peace process is actually over, at the time when it could have resulted in a total withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Instead, we are faced with Israeli control, incessant military damage and a curfew unprecedented even in the early days of the Israeli occupation. The implications seem to be that the Palestinian Authority no longer exists and cannot provide any of the services that it should provide, according to the Oslo accords.

We have arrived at this destination because the peace camps on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides committed semi-suicide. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak showed positive signs toward compromise at Camp David, as did Palestinians. But just as we were close to a complete package that would have ended the occupation and established a Palestinian state, Barak permitted Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to Al Aqsa mosque, and launched his “revenge” on Palestinians, giving a free hand to his military forces to kill Palestinian demonstrators everywhere and provoking more protests and reactions on the Palestinian side.

When Palestinians resorted to military means, especially against Israeli civilians, they sent the wrong message to the Israeli public, aiding the Israeli Likud propaganda stating that Palestinians do not want peace. Together, Barak and Palestinian military reactions actually assisted the Likud and Ariel Sharon in coming to power. With the election of Sharon, we were then faced with an individual who has always viewed the peace process as his own personal nightmare. On his initiative, the confrontations have only grown more fiery and grave.

But Sharon’s military solution will not bring the Israeli public the security it seeks. Nor do Palestinians have any other way of achieving their rights than through peace negotiations. As long as he is given pretext, Sharon will not allow any serious negotiations with Palestinians. He will continue to create obstacles to restarting talks, obstacles that will endure even after he is gone from the scene.

I believe that we are looking at the prolonging of this terrible situation of confrontation, an atmosphere that will aid the Likud in diverting public opinion from seeing its settlements, land confiscations, demolition of the Palestinian economy and deprivation of Palestinians of managing everything--down to the minutes of their every day. Now that we may witness a war against Iraq, Sharon will be free beneath this smokescreen to commit all the crimes he has dreamed of. His fantasies, I fear, are much more vast than the crimes he has already carried out.

We should observe that fundamentalists on the Palestinian side are a counterpart to the fundamentalists on the Israeli side. All Likud actions are actually encouraging and feeding the politics of Palestinian and Arab fundamentalist movements, and visa versa. We must break this vicious cycle, where the silent majority is stuck in the middle. There must be a joint struggle between the peace camp on the Israeli side towards ending the Sharon era on the one hand, and the Palestinian peace camp towards securing power in the next elections, on the other. The end of the Sharon government, the end of the confusion in Palestinian politics and the realization of discipline in the Palestinian struggle are key steps toward the resumption of the peace process.

These are not easy tasks for either the Israeli peace camp, or its Palestinian counterpart. Since Sharon has determinant control over events, he can continue feeding the vicious cycle of violence and bloodshed. That situation could lead the Palestine Liberation Organization to dissolve the Palestinian National Authority in order to break the cycle.

In this situation where the Palestinian National Authority has been for so long in a position where it cannot protect its citizens, and the Israeli government deigns to respect any agreements signed with the PLO, it would be better to ask the international community to shoulder its responsibility of protecting the Palestinian people. Sharon’s military power politics game is to paralyze the Palestinian National Authority, and hold it responsible for the actions of every Palestinian. Regrettably, the United States administration buys Sharon’s charges (even as it knows the Authority is paralyzed) and is asking the Authority to stop Palestinians’ military reactions and “invest 100 percent effort.”

One way of beating this game would have been to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, and ask for international intervention to fill the vacuum. If the PLO chooses to go down this avenue, however, it must coordinate its actions with the United Nations, Europe, the Arab countries, Russia and the United States. These concerned parties should be asked to create an interim United Nations government to fill the vacuum and provide protection to the Palestinian people. This government should prepare for the establishment of a Palestinian state according to the American vision based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. It is obvious that Israel will resist any international intervention, and will try to revive the Israeli “civil administration” to fill the vacuum. This situation will put Israel once again in the position where it cannot use F-16s, Apache helicopters and tanks on a civilian population--a position that was once condemned and rejected by the entire world and the majority of Israelis. -Published 14/10/02©

Samir Abdullah is an economist and was a member of the first Palestinian peace delegation in Madrid and Washington, and a member of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Coalition.

Respect their philosophy of survival

by Zvi Elpeleg

When the Israel Defense Forces won the 1967 War, there were two important consequences for Palestinian history. One was the conquest of the Palestinians' lands in the West Bank and Gaza Strip--without which it is doubtful whether those lands would ever be returned to them--and the beginning of a process of establishing a Palestinian state. The other was the destruction of patterns of government, in the sense of the system of reciprocal relations between the regime and the population. This system of relations has existed since time immemorial in the Arab countries; it explains the coexistence of despised regimes with the populations that despise them.

This article seeks to discuss primarily the second consequence: the reforms that Israel decided to institute in the ruling systems in the territories it occupied. The conquest of the territories itself opened the way to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The changes in the patterns of governing the population of the territories and the establishment of settlements, while not diverting this trend, have turned the process into a cycle of blood and fire.

What are the essence and the significance of ruling practices in the political culture of Arab society? They are a function of the absence of a democratic tradition in which the people are sovereign and choose their representatives for defined periods of time, and there is a mechanism for replacing the government. Since such mechanisms do not exist in Arab society, the modus vivendi between the ruler and the population rests on several elements:

1. The regime is supported by the army, whose main task is loyalty to and defense of that regime;

2. maximum dependency of the citizenry on the regime--usually by means of a system of mukhtars and local authorities who represent the regime in the eyes of the population, and vice versa;

3. a disparity between the dogmatic and the pragmatic, i.e., between principles and actual behavior;

4. limitations on freedom of expression; in a society lacking in democratic tradition, words easily turn into violence;

5. in view of the unique situation in the two territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel found in place in 1967 additional restrictions that were embodied in a system of laws and directives that had been imposed upon the residents.

Before Moshe Dayan, minister of defense in 1967, had time to learn what was already in place in the territories--what in fact ensured the equilibrium between rulers and the citizenry there--he decided to dismantle the system of laws and directives that had existed prior to 1967. This involved elimination of the curfew in Gaza; erasing the Green Line between Israel and the territories; canceling the ban on newspapers (shortly after the occupation some 30 newspapers began to appear, representing the various factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization); removing government units from populated areas to prevent friction; appointing to positions in the military government army officers who neither knew Arab society nor spoke the language, in order to ensure the success of the famous "non-interference policy"; and additional instances of mistaken policymaking.

The attitude toward the future of the territories was also confused: it sought, on the one hand, to maintain the West Bankers' link to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, while on the other, in the course of superfluous elections that Dayan forced upon the West Bank in 1972 and 1976, to bring about the removal of mayors who supported Jordan; it sought to encourage integration of the population with Israel while at the same time opening the bridges on the Jordan River, thereby better enabling the PLO to take control over the population and recruit it for acts of violence against Israel; and it projected yet another idea, a "functional arrangement" in which residents of the West Bank would vote for the parliament in Amman while their lands were ruled by Israel. Add to this Israel's reaction to the idea of federation between the two banks of the Jordan, which King Hussein proposed in his speech of March 15, 1972. This was perhaps the best idea proposed until then, and Israel rejected it.

In retrospect, what were Israel's alternatives after it occupied the territories?

First, it could have followed in the footsteps of the regimes that preceded 1967 and ruled the population in accordance with modes that existed prior to the occupation, thereby generating coexistence between the population and our rule along the lines of relationships that exist between regime and citizenry in Arab countries. Secondly, it could have accepted an arrangement with Jordan that would have left none of the territories in our hands but would have provided peace along the 1967 borders. And third, it could have anticipated the potential of the PLO, whose strength grew through a process of liberating itself from the guardianship of the Arab countries, and tried to reach an agreement with it.

What is the alternative today?

Throughout the history of modern Israel we have found ourselves in control of Arab territories five times. By the by, for 18 years we maintained a military government over the Israeli Arabs of the Galilee, the Triangle and the Negev. This was the longest and most successful rule of them all, not because we were once wiser, but rather because we allowed their philosophy of survival to work. This happened during three other periods as well: in Gaza after the 1956 Sinai Operation; at Faid (Egypt) after the 1973 War; and in Lebanon, in the beginning, in 1982. In 1967 we did not know how to benefit from the Arabs' philosophy of survival. Meanwhile our world here has changed so much.

Today we cannot reverse this process. We must pursue the goal of a state for the Palestinians--and separate them and us. In return it is in our interest to relinquish the settlements and to be generous with regard to the 22.5 percent of historic Palestine that remains for them.-Published 14/10/2002©

Colonel (res.) Dr. Zvi Elpeleg was a military governor in the Triangle in the mid-50s, in Gaza in 1956-57, in the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, in Faid (Egypt) in 1973, and in southern Lebanon in 1982. In 1995-1997 he served as Israel's ambassador to Turkey. Since 1972 he has been a senior researcher at the Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University.

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