On my first night in Israel, August 31, 1970, my 20th birthday, I arrived at the campus of Hebrew University, to participate in a study group that met every Thursday night at the Lauterman building at Hebrew U and every Monday night at the Gillman building at Tel Aviv U, to consider the idea of what it would be like to establish a Palestinian Arab sovereign state in the areas that Israel had acquired in the lightning war of June 1967.
The name of that study groups was Siach, whose initials stood for Smol Yisrael Hadash, the Israeli New Left.
I had read about Siach in the New York Times a few weeks before/
The fact that Israelis were discussing such matters was intriguing, especially since the members of Siach let it be known that they were different than the new Anti Zionist group that had also formed on campus, Matzpen, which stated openly that Israel must simply withdraw unilaterally from areas that it had “conquered” and challenged the right of a Jewish state to exist as a Jewish state.
Yet the idea that Israelis were discussing the idea of an independent Palestinian Arab entity seemed revolutionary at the same.
Indeed, when upon arrival at the gate of Hebrew U to ask the guard where Siach was meeting, he asked in great consternation , in Hebrew that I could understand, “How long are you in Israel that you can go to meetings like this?” , to which the answered surprised of the guard, “Six hours, sir”
Yet as I review my notes, articles and files from from those Siach discussions of 1970, it is easy to discern that the rational questions that we asked then about the consequences of such an entity seem to be missing in the discourse of the present day, when a Palestinian Arab State seems just around the corner.
Here are the issues concerning the consequences of a Palestinian Arab State that Siach was discussing then, all of which are relevant to the discussions that should be taking place in the Israeli public domain
1.Encirclement: Will a proposed sovereign Palestine not swallow up Jordan, most of whose population is Palestinian, leaving Israel with a hostile state from the Iraqi border to the Mediterranean Sea, with a corridor across the Negev between Gaza to Hebron?
2. Israeli Arabs: Will the Arabs of the Galilee and the Triangle not sue for join the Palestinian Arab state and then demand the fulfillment of U.N. Resolution 181 – an Israeli withdrawal to the 1947 borders (evacuation of Nahariya, Acre, Nazareth, Jaffa, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat and Beer Sheva)?
3. Terror: Would a new Palestinian Arab entity disband terrorist organizations? We asked this question before the Oslo process imported the PLO, which has never renounced terrorism or violence as a means to liberate all of Palestine.
4. Armament: Why should there be any expectation that a sovereign Palestine will be demilitarized, since the all nation states maintain an armed force as an integral aspect of their new nation?
5. Refugees: How will Israel deal with continuing expectations of the Arab countries and UNRWA residents who continue to demand that Israel must absorb descendents of Arab refugees and thereby displace thousands of Israelis from places like Haifa, Tfzat and Jaffa and 80 kibbutzim which rest on the property of Arab villages where Arabs left from in 1948?
6. Air space: Will Israel Air Force be forbidden from flying over a new Palestinian Arab state?
7. Alliances: What will prevent a Palestinian State from military agreements with countries still at war with Israel?
8. Water: Will a sovereign Palestine not carry out pirate drilling, and threaten the mountain aquifer of Judea and Samaria?
9. Jewish sovereignty: Will the momentum for a Palestinian Arab State not erase the momentum of the right of the Jews to the land of Israel in international consciousness?
10. Loss of independence: Will Israel not become a subject to the sponsors of a Palestinian Arab state, which today would be known as the Quartet – the U.S., the EU, the U.N. and Russia?
Throughout the seventies, one of the mentors of Siach was General Aharon Yariv, who retired as head of Israel military intelligence after the Yom Kippur War and joined the first Rabin government in a short lived term of office as the Israel Minister of Information.
Yariv coined the term “territories for peace”, yet found himself more and more isolated, when he failed to discern any Palestinian Arab entity that was ready to trade a real peace in exchange for Israeli territorial withdrawal.
What Yariv discerned was that the Israeli peace movement was moving to the Matzpen position which advocated unilateral Israeli pullbacks, no matter what the consequences would be.
In 1988, Yariv granted me an interview in which he said that peace advocates were forgetting the essence of his formula for a settlement:
In Yariv’s words, “We said territories for peace= not territories before peace”
Those who advocate “territories before peace” seem to forget or ignore the ten aforementioned consequences of a Palestinian Arab State – which any rational peace advocate must cope with.