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In 1937 the Peel commission recommended that Palestine be partitioned. That seems simple enough, but 65 years later it is still pie in the sky.

There have been some hopeful events, like the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, and the Camp David and Oslo Accords. Otherwise the history has been one of discord, displacement, war and terror.

While these and other events demonstrated that while each side seeks a resolution, neither seems able to control its most extreme elements. Extremism appears again and again to dash the hopes of Muslim and Jew alike, and indeed to inflame them anew. Although religion plays a central role, religious differences are reconcilable, extreme views are not.

Most of Israel's leaders remembered and were deeply affected by the holocaust and the fear and paranoia it engendered. Sadly those fears arose again and again, to set back the best efforts of the diplomatic Arab and Jew alike. Voices of reason were often raised on both sides. They were usually brushed aside in the rush to conquest or to get even.

Along with the Holocaust, Zionism became a way of life that reared its ugly head at every opportunity. Like many ideologies, it spawned excesses that defeated its own purposes time and again. As often as not, Jabotinsky, the formulator or Zionism, was misinterpreted to fit the issue of the moment. In a very real sense, Zionism was and still is the vehicle for extreme views among Israeli leaders. By the same token it has been and remains a very real and serious threat to any peace initiative. Israel continues to settle on occupied lands in the Zionist mode.

On the Israeli side, militarism too often substituted for diplomacy with disastrous results. Israel's invasion of Lebanon was the most vivid example; the conduct of the Six Day War was another. For their part, the Arabs also made mistakes. When Jordan entered the Six Day War, it lost not only the West Bank in a single stroke, it handed the future of Palestine to the PLO. That loss came not from any Israeli intent to involve Jordan; it came from the Israeli General staff who reacted in knee-jerk fashion to the Jordanian attack. That singular result, opened the floodgates for the full expression of Zionism.

Finally, Israel's purported development of atomic weapons doubtless played a behind-the-scenes role in policy making on both sides. Certainly that development goaded Saddam Hussein to begin strategic weapon development. Possession of such weapons provide a sense of security. The problem remains that security for one people can only come from a loss of security for their neighbors. One should not be surprised that insecure people with nothing to lose, facing the ultimate horror, would resort to suicide bombing as an escalation of terror.

What follows relies heavily on The Iron Wall by Avi Shlaim. We cannot say enough about this book. It is authoritative, an easy read, and provides reasonable interpretations of the evidence available. This page focuses mainly on the military events and how they came about. Israel's military and Zionist histories run on parallel tracks. Avi Shlaim illustrates how these interwoven histories combine in marvelous clarity.

What follows is an all too brief historical sketch of the first 50 years of Israel's existence as a state following UN approval.

War of Independence
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That Israel won the war for independence handily is a reflection of their early military superiority, aided materially by arms smuggled from Czechoslovakia. Israel also won something elsethe propaganda war. Their propaganda was basically true as far as it went; it was just far from complete. By emphasizing the number of nations among its opponents, they made it appear that a vastly outnumbered David slew a mighty Goliath. In terms of personnel bearing arms, the opposite was true. Further, Trans-Jordon was not a committed enemy. These features, however, do not sit well among Zionist who only want heroic pictures and figures. Zionist propaganda also managed to hide a further fact: 80% of Arab homes seized by the Zionists were razed. Countless Arab civilians suddenly found themselves in refugee campswhere two generations of Arabs have since been born, into captivity.

The boundaries established by the armistice were greatly expanded from those established by the UN Resolution. Israel occupied the whole of the Nagev Desert. Though exhausted by the war, Israelis were uplifted by their success and began to lean toward militarism as their primary engine for survival.

Zionist propaganda inspired awe and wonder in the non-Arab world. Their story of the war dies hard, because it is taught in classrooms and is based on provable facts, however incomplete.

Whatever the total truth, Israeli policy moved increasingly toward military responses to terror and other threats. Israel alternately had moderates or hawks as Prime Ministers. But the military always had a strong influence on policy and events.

Suez War (Sinai Campaign)
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Israel joined Britain and France in their war with Egypt as the latter attempted to maintain their influence in North Africa and control of the Suez Canal. Israel joined this effort in part to extend its own borders. Ben-Gurion was the chief architect and instigator. All three nations deceived Eisenhower as to their intentions and they each paid a price.

Israel's military campaign was a roaring success. The cease fire, coming some 10 days after they invaded the Sinai, left them in total command of the peninsula bordered by Israel, the canal, the gulf of Suez, and the Red Sea.

Ben-Gurion's glee almost immediately turned to gloom. The Soviets delivered threats they could back up. The Eisenhower Administration demanded immediate and complete Israeli withdrawal. Eisenhower went further. He threatened to stop aid flowing to Israel from American Jewry and he said that he would not oppose Israel's ejection from the UN. There is a lesson here for the current Bush Administration.

Ben-Gurion had grossly misread the international situation and paid a price. For a man who many times proudly proclaimed that what gentiles had to say was of no consequence, it must have been galling that he now had to listen to them. Still Israel won increased access to shipping lanes and its army gained in prestige even though it had to withdraw from the Sinai in the face of mounting criticism.

Ben Gurion's aims of deposing Nasser, and forcing Egypt to make peace, and making peace with Lebanon and Iraq all turned out to be wishful thinking. In fact, Nasser not only emerged still in the driver's seat but with increased prestige. Nasser's army that was little damaged by its strategic withdrawal. Not only that, but Nasser was now the undisputed leader of the Arab powers in the Middle East. Moreover, the Suez war led to the collapse of British and French influence in the Middle East, leaving Israel standing alone with only America as an ally.

Nevertheless, Ben-Gurion survived with something. Until the Sinai campaign, there had been two political camps in Israel. Those believing in negotiations were led by Moshe Sharret. By being able to force the latter's resignation from government, Ben-Gurion freed himself to make war in the Sinai. Because of that war's military success, Israel became more of one mind, a military mind.

Further, the Suez war strengthened the radical Arab case against Israel. Nasser was now in a position to put together a united Arab front against Israel and he promptly did just that. Nasser got more involved with the Palestinians and was instrumental in establishing the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO. In these ways he gave the Palestine conflict a pan-Arab dimension that survives to this day. All these went counter to Israeli interests.

In spite of the gross miscalculations, failed objectives and long-term negative consequences, the propaganda mill cranked up and painted the campaign as a great victory. Ben-Gurion's prestige increased within Israel in spite of his international isolation. He won such power in the 1956 election that he needed no longer to consult the Knesset on many issues. His political mastery lasted until he retired, many years later.

Eighteen years after the truce of 1949, Israel was alive and well. Zionism had achieved its goals and seemed no longer to be a high-profile policy. Although Egypt and Jordan were allied militarily, Israel and Jordan had relatively good relations. Syria was more a nuisance than a threat. Israel had a well-prepared and trained military that was better than all those of its neighbors combined, and its neighbors knew it. Israel's military posture and policy was largely defensive. Israel had recovered good relations with America. So good in fact that Israel was able to obtain two nuclear reactors that made e nuclear arms development possible without inspections by America or anyone else.

Meanwhile, the Arab League summit met in Cairo in January 1964 over Israel's diversion of water away from Jordan and Syria. At this meeting, the Arab states collectively declared their intent to destroy Israel if the water issue could not be resolved. A second summit in September in Alexandria approved the details for dealing with the water problem. Israel could only take these decisions seriously. One response was to respond more forcefully to routine border clashes. Israel also attacked the earth-moving equipment the Syrians were trying to use in diverting water for themselves. At that point Israel appeared to have won the water war.

The Fatah guerillas nevertheless raided an Israeli water works and went on a campaign to drag Arab states into conflict with Israel by escalating border clashes during 1965. In 1966, Israel was goaded into a major raid on Samu in the West Bank controlled by Jordan. This was a gross overreaction as Jordan had nothing to do with raids on Israeli water works. It was a major blunder and Israel soon realized it had alienated King Hussein with whom they had enjoyed decent relationships.

This pattern of harassment and escalating reactions continued into 1967. Syrian guns drew the attention of the Israeli air force which encountered a flight of Syrian aircraft during their raid on the gun positions. Six Syrian MIGs were shot down. Things continued to escalate in several directions. On the 22nd of May, Nasser closed the straits of Tiran to Israeli ships. This blockade made war between Egypt and Israel inevitable.

The whole world watched, but largely stood by with diplomatic channels merely buzzing.

The Six Day War
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This war has been acclaimed by many as a modern-day David's slaying of a huge Goliath. In fact, Israel's military had been well prepared and thoroughly trained for just such a moment as this. They, not the Arabs, had the real military wherewithal. They also had better coordination and a unified command structure. The outcome was never in doubt.

Also not well known about this war is that there was little by way of political objectives or even an outline of guiding principles. What began as an action against Egypt alone quickly dissolved into a war of opportunity orchestrated by the generals more than the politicians.

In the morning of June 5 in a few hours, Israel essentially wiped out the Egyptian air force on the ground in precise surprise attacks. Being allied with Egypt by a defense pact only five days old, Jordan felt obligated to enter the war and on its first day began shelling Israeli positions in Jerusalem. However, Jordan lost the West Bank within days. Syrian aircraft made a single sortie into Israel and Syrian gunners bombarded Israeli settlements along the front line. This stopped after a devastating Israeli counter attack. The Syrians however wanted to stay out of the war, and proposed a cease fire. After some hesitation, Israel nevertheless seized the Golan Heights. In just six days, the Israeli general staff had changed the political face of the Middle East. In what had started as an action only toward Egypt ended in a blitz the likes of which even Hitler never mustered. It was orchestrated by the generals, not the politicians. Israel achieved tremendous prestige and emerged with an even greater military advantage than before. Politically, however, Israel had no plans in place for the new era before them.

One can only imagine how this event pumped up the Zionists. Their main pride came from the occupation of Biblical Judea and Samaria otherwise known as the West Bank. Jabotinsky's message took on prophetic meaning for the Zionists, who now had an opportunity to settle on the West Bank and even in the Golan Heights. These proceeded promptly with cabinet blessing. By the end of June, Israel had also annexed East Jerusalem and its surroundings, including the old city. All this represented a reversal for the leading Zionists, who for thirty years had been resigned to the partition of Palestine. The war also reinforced the idea in the minds of many that military force could be used to realize peace.

In these ways, the Six Day War set the stage for further conflicts. Some consequences included: France embargoed military supplies for Israel. The Soviet Union became more active in Middle Eastern affairs with assistance to Egypt. The War provided a framework from which further hostilities could spring. And it started a period of ascending influence for the Israeli military in governmental affairs.

Levi Eshkol, the Israeli Prime Minister during all this died in early 1969 leaving his dream of a political settlement from the Six Day War unfulfilled. Golda Meir took over the reins. Meir was a capable leader, strong and decisive, but her Achilles heel was her over-reliance on the military for advice. She also had a black and white view of things; the color gray was not in her vocabulary. Meir was haunted by the holocaust and could never fully trust non-Jews, especially Arabs. And Meir was a consummate Zionist and believed the Palestinians were nothing. These features could only lead to further confrontations.

The War of Attrition
1969 - 1970
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Meir was intransigent about returning to prewar borders; any partial withdrawal had to be coupled with iron clad peace treaties negotiated with the Arab states. Military clashes occurred sporadically into the spring of 1969. At this time Nasser escalated hostilities with a view of eventually removing Israel from the East bank of the Suez Canal. He also renounced the UN cease fire. Israel initially responded by erecting a defensive line along the Canal. They later began penetration bombing of military targets deep within Egypt. This crippled Egypt, but did not have the effect of unseating Nasser. Instead he invited the Soviet Union to provide aircraft and ground-to-air missiles to participate. The Israelis had discounted this possibility. They also missed the American reaction which was very negative toward the bombing. Israeli pilots did win a dog fight with Soviet pilots, but the introduction of Soviet ground-to-air missiles, and pressure from the Americans finally led to a cease fire.

This war was long and costly for Israel and added new elements to the power equation. Israel lost not only air superiority, but the psychological edge The Six Day War had provided.

Nevertheless, Israel continued the war of attrition on the diplomatic front while continuing to establish settlements in the occupied territories and improving their military capabilities. These events were not without internal opposition in Israel. They merely reflected that the Zionist hawks were in control. The Israelis became gradually more smug. By 1973 they had such a low opinion of the Arabs that they discounted any significant danger. After all had they not won the war of attrition on top of their other triumphs? Self delusion is a recurring theme.

The Yom Kippur War
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With amazing suddenness, Egypt and Syria launched surprise attacks on Israel on the Day of Atonement, the most holy day in Judaism. Their surprise was complete. Egypt crossed the Suez, broke through the Bar Lev line, and established their presence on the East bank; Syria wanted to recapture part of the Golan Heights. Both wanted to wound Israel and break the political deadlock that prevailed. To that extent, they succeeded in spite of being rolled back by Israel. The Yom Kippur War was the first conflict joined by Israel to be followed by a political settlement.

By their temporary military successes, the Arabs recovered a great deal of self-esteem that had been damaged in 1967. They no longer felt outclassed by the Israelis; the latter were no longer viewed as invincible. By taking Israel by surprise and making strong gains, the Arabs won psychologically; never mind that they were thrown back decisively. These changes in Arab perspective, along with immediate intervention by America, made an eventual political agreement possible in 1978.

That agreement was between Egypt and Israel; it was a tightrope walk for each nation. Egypt recovered the Sinai Desert and opened the Suez Canal. Israel got a solid peace treaty. Both sides made conciliatory gestures toward the other. The mere fact that the Camp David Accords were signed shows that reasonableness can prevail in extreme circumstances. Egypt paid a price by being expelled from the Arab league in 1978.

Jordan paid a price earlier. The West Bank had been Jordan territory before the Six Day War. But in 1974, the Arab League summit meeting endorsed the PLO claim for being the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people. Soon thereafter, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution affirming the right of the Palestinians to self-determination.

By then, Meir had retired and Menachem Begin had taken over. Begin was intransigent as far as his limits went, but otherwise had enough good sense and flexibility to sign and implement the peace accord with Egypt.

Israel not only continued settlement of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, but accelerated the rate to significant levels. The hawkish Kookist religious movement had grown rapidly and formed a group called the Gush Eminium. The Gush encouraged accelerating settlement of the occupied territories with religious frevor. Begin was under their influence from the beginning of his time in office. The Gush were extremists in that they claimed that Palestinians had no rights to their homeland and therefor there could be no place for them.

These events changed a paradigm: A secular Zionism was replaced by a religious one under Begin's regime. The problem of terrorism, already bad enough became worse because a "righteous" perspective fueled further state terror with a lack of insight that might otherwise put on some breaks.

Begin annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. This raised a storm of protest and America suspended its agreement with Israel for strategic cooperation for taking such a huge step unilaterally.

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Shortly before the election in 1981, Begin authorized the destruction of a nuclear reactor Iraq was building. This act turned out to be popular among the Israeli voters even though there is little historical evidence that links the two events. Nevertheless, Begin came from behind in the poles and won enough friendly seats to form a government entirely from right wing parties. Unlike his first government, Begin's second cabinet contained no ministers of moderate stripe, all were essentially hawks. Yitzhak Shamir stayed on as Foreign Minister. Ariel Sharon, also an inveterate hawk, became Defense Minister. Sharon immediately began plotting a grand scheme where he would invade Lebanon, destroy its military along with the PLO, push out the Syrians, and install his Maranite Christian friends in power who would them make peace with Israel. Along with all this, he expected refugees from the West Bank and Lebanon to flow into Jordan, eliminate the Hashamite monarchy and transform the East Bank into a Palestinian state. Sharon expected that eventuality would satisfy those who wanted a Palestinian state along side Israel. There were at least three flaws: the first was that he did not clear all this with Begin, the second was that the Maranites were a splintered group of rival warlords, and the third mistake was the assumption that people and states behave like pawns on a chess board. The Syrians would not be pushed around; they refused to leave Lebanon.

For his part, Begin wanted to destroy the PLO bases in Southern Lebanon and drive the PLO North, too far away to effectively attack Israel. Begin's cabinet reacted negatively to even this plan so soon after the Golan Heights annexation. Meanwhile, Sharon had the duty of clearing the Jewish settlements in the Sinai and living up to the Camp David Accords.

Sharon nevertheless kept up pressure on the cabinet to approve a series of little steps that would achieve his grand plan. At the same time he pushed his military staff to prepare for war in Lebanon. Some in the cabinet saw through Sharon' s plans and balked. To the Americans, he supplied only selective information showing the PLO in a more threatening light than the reality. Rafael Eytan, the chief of staff was deeply involved in Sharon's plans. Sharon's duplicity was apparent to many.

In May 1982, the Cabinet approved in principle a massive retaliation to the next provocation. Meanwhile, Alexander Haig counseled Sharon to desist. Sharon is reported to have said, "No one has the right to tell Israel what decision to make in defense of its people."

An apparent provocation came in early June with the shooting of Israel's ambassador to Britain. The shooting was the work of Abu Nidal's organization who were sworn enemies of the PLO. But Begin brushed that off and pushed the Cabinet in the direction of war. Eytan recommended air strikes against the PLO in Lebanon knowing that the PLO had issued orders for a full scale artillery response if that happened; that event would start the war. Eytan, however, kept that information from the Cabinet. Sure enough, the PLO responded to the air strike as expected. In briefing the Cabinet, Sharon explained how he would outflank the Syrians without firing on them and so force their retreat. He did not reveal his personal belief that a clash with the Syrians was certain.

On June 6 1982, Israeli columns moved into Lebanon. True to Sharon's private belief, the Syrians fought back and things escalated from there The Israeli Cabinet did not get the full story as things developed. Defensive maneuvers by the Syrians were reported by Begin to be offensive with even more escalation. Although Begin originally agreed to hold the incursion to 40 kilometers, in fact it went all the way to the outskirts of Beirut by the time a cease fire was arranged amid intense international criticism.

Sharon continued creeping forward until his forces surrounded Beirut, linked up with the Christians, and trapped Syrian units along with the PLO in the city. Sharon began a siege of Beirut that intensified with time. The city was essentially destroyed. However, the methods used caused unrest in the army and political criticism within Israel. President Reagan, an early supporter of Begin, lost patience and sent a critical letter to Begin and Sharon.

Begin replied with the following:

"Now may I tell you, dear Mr. President, how I feel these days when I turn to the creator of my soul in deep gratitude. I feel as a Prime Minister, empowered to instruct a valiant army facing "Berlin" where amongst innocent civilians, Hitler and his henchmen hide in a bunker deep beneath the surface. My generation, dear ron, swore on the alter of God that whoever proclaims his intent to destroy the Jewish state or the Jewish people, or both, seals his fate, so that what happened once on instructions from Berlinwith or without inverted commaswill never happen again."

Begin's reply to Reagan was published in the Jerusalem Post. By invoking the holocaust as his excuse to besiege Beirut, Begin roused still further criticism. Some people even questioned whether he was even in touch with reality. At the least, Begin was expressing against the Arabs his hostility against Hitler. This classic in displacement of anger seemed to underlie much of the Israeli attitude toward the Palestinians in particular.

Alexander Haig tried to use the shock of the invasion to force the PLO out of Beirut. For that implicit support for the invasion, Haig was forced to resign. George Schultz, his replacement, sent Philip Habib to broker an end to the fighting. Habib was able to calm things down and evacuate the PLO to Tunisia.

Sharon manipulated the election of Bashir Gemayel as head of state for Lebanon. He and Begin failed in their attempt to force him to sign a peace treaty with Israel before he could consolidate his power. By then Reagan and his staff were fully aware of Sharon's plan for a greater Israel and offered a peace plan of their own.

Gemayel was assassinated three weeks after his election and the Israeli dream for a greater Israel collapsed. His brother was installed as the new head of Lebanon, but served only at the pleasure of the Syrians. But blood letting continued. Sharon told his generals to allow the Christian Phalangists to enter the Palestinian refugee camps in Sabra and Shatilla to clean out the terrorists he claimed were lurking there. For some three days the Phalangists massacred trapped Palestinians out of their own rages. Israeli commanders were aware of the massacres, but stood by doing nothing.

As a direct result of this development, Sharon lost his Defense portfolio. For his part, Begin, having squandered Israel's self respect, faced a shortened tenure. Although Israel and Lebanon signed an agreement ending hostilities in 1983, Syria once again assumed control of the main transportation artery. Israel completed staged withdrawals unilaterally. But the fighting did not end. Far from being a conclusive venture, the Lebanon War was just the opposite. The PLO escaped to live another day. Beyond that, the war spawned the Hizbullah (Party of God). With Syrian and Iranian support, the Hizbullah immediately began terror activities against Israel.

This fool hardy foray also destroyed all the goodwill Israel had earned by withdrawing from the Sinai. It also destroyed Begin. He resigned and became a reclusive and broken man.

Avi Shlaim concludes this episode with a lesson from history, well known by historians, but ignored by Begin, Sharon, Eytan and other hawks. Simply put, a security dilemma occurs when a nation drives to increase its security. That very fact decreases the security of its neighbors, who then act to increase their own security, and so on and on. While this vicious circle has no end, participants either deny the possibility or frankly expect to stay ahead of their neighbors. Either way, humanity is the loser. The Sharon government is once again exerting brute military force against civilian targets, earning yet more hatred and inviting continued escalation. At the same time, Hamas, Hizbullah, and other terror organizations reply in kind, earning yet more hatred and inviting continued escalation.

Yitzhak Shamir became the new prime minister as the economy reeled from the burden of the Lebanon War. He inherited a government badly tarnished both in the world's view and internally. His Likud party was expected to lose the elections of 1984. But a reservoir of militancy among the voters provided him with enough seats to match the gains of the Labor party and their allies. The upshot was was a government formed by Shimon Peres with a cabinet split five and five between the Likud and Labor parties. In spite of a situation where each party could veto the other, Peres was able to cool inflation, revive the economy and make progress on the international scene while searching for avenues to peace. He also extracted Israel from the Lebanese quagmire. Otherwise, the government suffered from paralysis.

Labor's deal with the Likud to swap the premiership put Shamir back in power. This event rolled back all peace efforts even though Peres still pursued his dream. Shamir played for time again and again, believing every day gained moved Zionism one day closer to the promised land. New settlements on the West Bank were tangible evidence that that was so. But each new settlement rubbed new salt into the wounds of the Arabs. The Palestinians suffered new hardships and humiliations with each new day. And so the security dilemma operated.

The Lebanon War did something else of lasting and historical importance. Suicide bombing from 1982 on became a strategic poliical weapon in the Middle East. This is Sharon's legacy.

Intifada I (Uprising)
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Israel is vaunted for its intelligence gathering. Israelis often seem to know what is going on when no one else does. That knowledge, however is largely military and political intrigue in nature. Perhaps for this reason, certain Israeli leaders seemed never to stop and take the pulse of things that matter, test their assumptions about consequences of their actions, or look in a mirror. Chasing their own illusions got them into big trouble in Lebanon and elsewhere. This happened in spite of wiser council from within their own governments.

And so it was in December, 1987 when a spark set off a tinder box in Jabaliya, the largest refugee camp on the Gaza strip. A fiery intifada quickly spread to the West Bank, with far more violence than ever before. This was not a nationalistic revolt. It was in fact a protest against 20 years of humiliation, poverty, poor camp living conditions, curfews, movement controls, and hatred of the Israeli occupation. Israel missed yet one more time a development that became serious. Israeli generals "knew" that they could quickly deal with any civil disturbancethey always had. Governing politicians "knew" that they could continue with their settlement and humiliation policies because they provided menial jobs for many Palestinians and that was enough. So complacency based on fantasy assumptions reigned.

So strong were these beliefs that a month of intifada elapsed before the Israelis began to realize the depth of passion involved on the Palestinian side. It took a major uprising for the Israelis to realize that they could not go on ignoring a 20 year old problem largely of their own making. We see here yet one more time where the leaders did the leading and the people did the suffering.

Rather than figure out the Palestinian mindset, the Israelis cracked down hard. "Break their bones" became their slogan. Whether those were the real words of Yitzhak Rabin, the Defense Minister, is controversial, but he was credited with having said them. It is certain that Shamir blamed Peres for the uprising, saying his softer approach only encouraged the Palestinians. In the end it was the Palestinians themselves who demonstrated that military force was not a solution; it was in fact part of the problem. [It is still not clear that the current Israeli leadership have learned that basic truth.] Senior Israeli military officers began to realize that draconian measures only encouraged continued violence.

Israeli academics were first to realize that an army can beat an army, but an army cannot beat a people, unless the army resorts to genocide. In this case the people spanned all walks of life and all levels of Palestinian society. These were the very people Gold Meir said were nothing. Further, these people were Muslim Arabs in a sea of Muslim Arabs sympathetic to their plight. Iron can smash iron, but it cannot smash a fist. The Iron Wall, a foundation of Zionism, has its limits, and Jabotinsky knew that. But most Israeli leaders either did not realize that or thought they knew better.

In actual fact, the intifada achieved more in its first few months than had the PLO since its inception. The world saw Israelis: shooting stone throwers, beating men, women, and children, bulldozing houses, and a powerful army attacking civilians. Media depictions were no longer David and Goliath. This was not only the other way around, it was worse as it involved women and children. To be sure, this picture may have been biased, but the bias had long been in the other direction, and that too exacerbated the actual problem by lulling Israeli officialdom. Israel had come to believe its own propaganda.

For its part, the PLO also had not come to terms with the reality that Jordan could be a valuable ally in the peace process. After all Jordan was still paying salaries to about a third servants on the West Bank. But the PLO hawks reigned supreme as did their Israeli counterparts.

Fall out from the intifada was serious and worldwide. Relations with America became strained. Even American Jewry began questioning how Israel was handling the Intifada. America's image and interests in the Middle East were being damaged by the close identification of America with Israel, and that did not sit well with many people. The upshot was that once again America could only try mediation. Jordan backed away from any discussion except those having to do with their own borders. This left Israel with no option except to deal directly with the PLOwhich the Israelis were loath to do.

The Intifada transformed the Hamas into a radical group arrayed against Israel. Zionism was sewing the fields with discontent in occupied territories in a manner reminiscent of the Nazi occupation of Europe. With each suppression of Hamas, it would sprout from new roots in ever more violent fashion. Suicide bombings began in 1994 and soon became the most fashionable expression of opposition to Israel.

The intifada also gave the Palestinians more self confidence and their morale soared, and they became more unified. The Israeli government itself became more polarized; one faction advocating even more force, the other willing to trade occupied lands for peace. This only led to political paralysis in Tel Aviv.

The election of 1988 gave Shamir another term in office but extremist parties on both the right and the left gained as did the religious parties.

At about this time, encouraged by the strength of the Intifada, Arafat was able to move away from his earlier hard-line position and recognize the right of Israel to exist. Further, the PLO recognized all the UN resolutions going back to 1947. Just as the Palestinians began moving toward compromise, Shamir moved even further from it, putting Israel in a worse light before world opinion.

Nevertheless Yitzhak Rabin learned some things from the Intifada The Jordanians could not bring the Palestinians to the peace table, it would be the other way around; Israel could only negotiate with the Palestinians directly; Israeli policy could not rest on the military alone, it had to have a political counterpart. These reasonable lessons were lost on Shamir and the other hawks. Peres and others fought hard for a peace initiative and eventually forced a vote of confidence that Shamir lost. Peres, however, could not put together a cabinet, so Shamir had a second chance. The policy of his new government was Zionistic in its aims and policies. No negotiations and continued settlements in occupied territories were the bywords. The intifada continued.

Gulf Crisis and War
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Once again Israel was caught by surprise when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Israeli intelligence was aware of the Iraqi build up and kept the leadership informed, but the latter did not fully appreciate its significance. The intelligence community knew Saddam Hussein was on his way to developing a nuclear weapon capability, and that he was trying to develop chemical and biological weapons as well. Still, this information did not impress Shamir or his cabinet.

That changed when the shooting started. Israel called on America to stop Hussein as they privately wanted to avoid a nuclear showdown with Iraq. The Israeli arsenal was estimated to be some 200 warheads at the time. While Iraq was not thought to possess nuclear arms, the Israelis evidently feared only nuclear weapons could stop him. The invasion of Kuwait soon caused an escalation of the intifada to a point near intercommunal warfare. The solution became a matter of public debate.

King Hussein, in a master stroke, changed the political landscape in Palestine. He announced that Iraq might be willing to withdraw from Kuwait if Israel would withdraw from all occupied territories. Hussein linked the two conflicts and Israel viewed that as a disadvantage. While president Bush denied any linkage, he did say that once the Iraqi invasion was resolved that the Palestinian conflict would be high on his agenda. This put Israel once again on the defensive. Shamir issued a statement that seemed to imply that any chemical attack on Israel would mean the atomic obliteration of Baghdad.

It was the Palestinians turn to go astray by hailing Saddam Hussein as their savior, who, like Israel's leaders, was also a conqueror of territory by force.

America was on that same spot with a double standard as well: opposing Iraqi aggression while ignoring Israel's aggression in Palestine. That clarified a bit with the Temple Mount Massacre where 21 Muslim demonstrators were killed by Israeli bullets. America voted in the UN to condemn Israel. This of course added tension to diplomatic relations. The UN resolution gave Baghdad until January 15 1991 to withdraw or face consequences.

Consequences began on January 16 as an air war. Within days Scud missiles were landing in Israel. Before that war ended, thirty-nine Scud missiles exploded in Israel. Only one person was killed, but the psychological impact was huge. These were the first military attacks on Israel cities since 1948, and the vaunted Israeli military was not empowered to intervene.

The cabinet was divided on joining in the war, but Shamir, true to his word to the Americans, voted against attacking Iraq. That cabinet impasse prevailed throughout the war. Nevertheless, Shamir is said to have armed and aimed his nuclear warheads at Iraq, just in case.

Since it was now evident to every Israeli that its military could not prevent attacks on Israeli cities, morale sagged. Shamir's stony silence on the matter only made morale worse.

The fall out from operation Desert Storm also went against Israel. Israel was America's strongest ally and provided an outpost in a largely unfriendly Middle East. Yet here was an instance where their only assistance possible was to do nothingso much for a strategic partnership. Iraq had been their strongest enemy in the Middle East, but Saddam Hussein was still in control. Not only that, it was now evident that America was moving toward the Arab points of view.

After the Gulf War, America again applied pressure on Israel to make peace in Palestine. Bilateral peace talks were eventually held, but after some 10 meetings over 20 months, the two sides were still poles apart on fundamental issues.

Inside Israel, a policy vacuum arose over keeping Jewish settlements on the West Bank while handing over some control to the Palestinians. Yossi Beilin, the deputy foreign minister under Peres, stepped into this vacuum, and was persuasive in moving his bosses toward peace.

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Independent of American pressure, Yitzhak Rabin decided to hold peace talks directly with the PLO. Shimon Peres, and Yossi Beilin were strong supporters.

This decision represented an about face in Israel's foreign policy. Yitzhak Rabin was head of government and Peres, his lifelong political rival, was foreign minister. Near the end of their careers, the found common groundpeace with the Arabs. Rabin was trusted by the Israeli electorate and cautious by nature. Peres strongly supported Beilin's efforts; Beilin was the chief architect. Together, Peres and Beilin brought Rabin around in his thinking. The Oslo Peace accord was signed and the Palestinians became a nation in waiting. Arafat returned to Palestine but did little to begin building a nation. He seemed more concerned with keeping his rivals at bay.

Rabin's assassination opened the door for the Jewish and Arab fundamentalists alike. From Iran came support for the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as the Lebanese Hizbollah. Nevertheless, Shimon Peres continued with implementing of the Oslo Accord. He also open talks with Syria with a peace agreement in mind.

A series suicide bombings in close succession in early 1996 put not only the peace in jeopardy, but its principal Israeli architect on the wrong side of Israeli opinion. The Israeli radical right took over the streets in demonstrations. Some of them accused Peres of being the source of the terror. Extremism was once again making a comeback. Fear turn into phobia in too many Israelis. Their self confidence was shattered. The Israeli public was responding just as the terrorists hoped they would.

At this critical juncture, President Clinton stepped in and orchestrated a dramatic conference at Sharm el-Sheikh, The Conference of the Peacemakers.

It was now time for the Hizbullah to flex its Iranian-supplied fire power. In retaliating, Israel shelled a UN position and killed a hundred innocent people. Although the UN spokesman blamed the Hizbullah, the world blamed Israel, and the war went on. Once again the Americans stepped in; the shooting stopped.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians moved ahead with establishing a government. For the first time, there were demonstrations against terrorism. Gradually these reversed, partly because while Peres and Arafat were acutely aware of their own societal responses, they were largely ignorant of those of the other side.

Nevertheless Arafat and Peres met face to face with their top security people in attendance and hammered out yet one more cooperative agreement.

Intifada II
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The Associated Press Reports:

Middle East Tensions rise after Sharon visit

September 28th - We thought all is well in the land of Israel and the Palestinian territories, until the visit by hard-liner Ariel Sharon along with roughly 1500 well armed Israeli soldiers to the site known to Muslims around the world as al-Haram as-Sharif in Jerusalem.

This is the same site Jews call Temple Mount. Sharon is the same man who viciously ordered the murders of thousands of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.

As Palestinian demonstrators gathered for protests because of Sharon's visit, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) opened fire at civilians with rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas causing protesters to respond with stones. Demonstrations grew dramatically in Palestinian controlled territories causing IDF to surround towns and villages with heavy artillery such as tanks and Apache helicopters, causing an escalation of violence. Major parts of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem hadn't seen the most fighting since 1996, when the Israeli government decided that they were going to build an archeological tunnel just underneath the Dome of the Rock that can cause it to demolish. Israel continues to push itself further into Palestinian controlled territories with live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, and missiles to try to salvage the 'peace process'. Nehad M. Associated Press.

This report parallels that in the Mitchell Report.

The Israeli's claimed Sharon's visit was "political," not military. If so, then why the large guard, 1500 strong? After a half century of provocations did the Israelis really not realize this visit would provoke the Arabs? And just what political point was being made?

Intifada II is still going strong.
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Israel's history is a study in human frailty. As Abba Eben is said to have observed, men and nations often behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. The Oslo Accord and an assassin's bullet neatly illustrate both sides of Eben's homily.

Now we are caught in yet one more iteration of extremism.

Winston Churchill comes to mind:

"Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events."


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