The End Game Rules Leading to Peace or to a very Dead End
November 11, 2000
Gershon Baskin, Ph.D. *
President Clinton has until January 20th. The Holy Muslim month of Ramadan begins in the end of November. Ehud Barak’s days at the head of the Israeli government are numbered. Yasser Arafat already seems to be living on borrowed time. After more than forty days of fighting the Palestinian death toll is rising towards 200 and the Israeli death toll is nearing 20. With each passing day, Israelis and Palestinians climb another step towards mutually undesirable and dangerous escalation. Stones and molotov bottles are being replaced by live ammunition and missiles. With each passing day, more and more Israelis and Palestinians join those who believe that peace is not possible - that there is no partner for peace on the other side. From speaking frequently with Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the past 6 weeks, it is crystal clear to me that neither side wants to be where we are. Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat do not want to lead their people to a dead end. Both are convinced that the other is responsible for the violence and the killing. Both believe that the other has abandoned the choice of peace.
In September 1993 when the late Prime Minister Rabin shook the hand of Yasser Arafat, they both declared that they were committed to the “peace of the brave”. Today it appears that the bravery of the peacemakers has been replaced by the cowardice of violence. There are no heroes in the current battles between Israelis and Palestinians, there are only victims, aggressors, fear and pain. There is no “win-win” strategy working here. We all lose when only six weeks ago it appeared that we all had a chance of winning.
Over the next three weeks there is perhaps one last opportunity to get off the track of mutual defeat and violence and back on the road that leads to peace. Now, if the less traveled path (towards peace) is selected, it must be done swiftly with sincerity, based on principles and with courage and determination not to fail. Peace can be achieved - both sides can agree, both Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat can reach an agreement. The price of peace for both is well known - and has been known for a long time. There is no time for prolonged negotiations. There is only time for making agreements. The following is the price of peace:
This is the package. There is very little room for negotiations. Can Arafat and Barak accept it? Arafat could embrace it and feel comfortable that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians will accept it. Barak has no Parliamentary majority and would be forced to take the peace agreement to new elections. Facing the electorate, Barak would have to convince the Israeli public that the choice before them might be difficult - but it is clear. The choice is between a very costly peace with many risks OR a 100% chance of a war going beyond the borders of Israel/Palestine with a very high toll on human life and suffering and possibly the end of peace with Jordan and maybe Egypt as well. I believe that given the choice between a risky peace and sure war, the Israeli public will chose peace and Mr. Barak will win. If Mr. Barak does not chose the road of peace now, he will surely face elections - sooner rather than later - and he will surely lose. So the choice for Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat is clearer than it has ever been before.
* Dr. Baskin is the Israeli co-director of IPCRI - the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.
The content of this piece had been sent to Mr. Barak prior to leaving for his meeting with President Clinton