Magazine article Tikkun

Netanyahu's Prospects: Excerpts from a Conversation with Yaron Ezrahi

Magazine article Tikkun

Netanyahu's Prospects: Excerpts from a Conversation with Yaron Ezrahi

Article excerpt

Netanyahu's Prospects: Excerpts from a Conversation with Yaron Ezrahi

Yaron Ezrahi is professor of political science at the Hebrew University. His Book, Rubber Bullets, is forthcoming in January 1997.

Observing the conduct of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu doesn't give one any idea of a policy or a strategy that guides the current government in facing the challenge of the peace process. His operational code is improvisation in the context of a general aversion to the peace process. Yet, he knows that a resumption of widespread violence and significant casualties on both sides could threaten his government. If the Palestinians lose hope, the kind of violence that could erupt here would undermine the stability of Israeli civilian life. The conflict is not between regular armies across known borders; it can easily erupt into a people's war, because of the nature of the demographic interpenetration between the two populations.

Israelis might easily perceive any resumption of full-scale hostilities with the Palestinians as a preventable war. In Israel's recent history, we have three examples of leaders who were charged with considerable responsibility for preventable wars, and all of them were in one way or another destroyed by merciless public criticism--Golda Meir (the Yom Kippur war), Menachem Begin (the Lebanese tragedy), and Yitzhak Shamir (the intifada). The course of the Lebanese war was affected by problems of morale in some units of the Israeli army. During the first weeks of the intifada, the Likud wanted to define the struggle as a live war with live ammunition, but the army objected and won. The question today is whether the Prime Minister can depend on Israel's people's army to fight a preventable war that would be rooted in a combination of gross miscalculation, incompetent decisionmaking, and ideology irrelevant to security and defense.

A Palestinian state seems to be extremely probable in the long run--the process set up by Rabin, Peres, and Bailin intended this state to emerge in the context of exchanges between Israel and the Palestinians based on trust, written agreements, and a peaceful diplomatic process. Netanyahu has disrupted this dynamic. If the damage is not corrected soon, the Palestinian state that will come into existence through blood and fire will be a much less peaceful, cooperative neighbor than if it emerges as it was going to under Peres and Rabin. …

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