Fifteen Fateful Seconds

The whole world is currently intent on negotiations which may begin between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians are making peculiar claims that their permanent borders be set according to the 1967 borders, which suddenly have become a sacred border, and are being wielded as a prerequisite to begin negotiations.

The conflict between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel is not about facts but about public opinion: the question is which side will gain more sympathy and which will be under greater pressure.

In fact, Israel is not doing its part to explain to international public opinion, and it unintentionally hides Israel’s security weaknesses, although the world views it as the aggressor and occupier facing a weak Palestinian side.

Things that were obvious to all of us years ago have been erased from our minds and global consciousness of our world. The 1967 borders have been blurred, not because Israel went to war, but because Israel, despite her requests and warnings, was attacked in June 1967. Until that time, the lands of the West Bank were in the hands of Jordan (since 1948), and never during these 7000 days was a claim made for a Palestinian state in these areas. After the establishment of a peace agreement with Jordan, when Jordan refused to accept sovereignty over these areas, it was expected that Israel, the perceived occupying power, must make all the necessary sacrifices necessary with respect to the 1967 borders, which was altered only following the assault against her.

Israelis approached negotiations with clean hands. The Leadership of the PLO, which until previously had resided in a far off land, was only given recognition and status during Israeli rule over this territory, something it was never given during the period of Jordanian nor Egyptian rule.

Development, cultivation, mechanisms of government, universities all expanded in the West Bank during the Israeli administration of the territory. Checkpoints in these areas were not erected because of Israel’s desire to suppress the population but due to terrorist activity, which also resulted in checkpoints being placed all across Israel at the entrances to schools, kindergartens, supermarkets, cinemas, railway stations and airports, to prevent terrorists from carrying out their plans and instill terror in the heart of Israeli society.

Again, the world was presented with a one-sided picture of the checkpoints, which today are very few in the West Bank, as a symbol of oppressing occupier, and a picture of tens of thousands of security personnel at checkpoints, in business, education and entertainment of Israel. The security barrier was also presented as a tool for oppression, but was in fact constructed to prevent the continuation of the horrible terrorist attacks on children, women and the elderly throughout Israel.

As Israel approaches negotiations with an open heart, we must take heed of a map, which can be accessed here, published in the Israeli press by the home front defense. This shocking map explains the number of seconds every citizen has to try to save his life and run for a bomb shelter when the alarm sounds indicating a missile attack. Indeed, alarms have sounded in Israel.

We must not forget that Israel allowed free elections in the Palestinian Authority and received in turn the Hamas government in Gaza, an entity that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, and has continued acts of terror, disrupting life in Israel for years. The world remains unaware of such a map, still viewing Israel as aggressor, not victim.

Furthermore, the Palestinians have, for decades, attempted to injure the most sacred values to the Jewish people over the years. For many years, Jews were prevented from visiting holy sites, even when control of a site such as Joseph’s tomb was given to the Palestinian Authority, which resulted in the murder of civilians and soldiers by terrorists, sponsored by the Palestinian Authority.

One of the most important places in Judaism, the Tomb of Rachel, has recently been deprived of its name and Jewish roots, as the Palestinian have named it after one of Muhammad’s Imams, who never even visited the Land of Israel. Over the last six months, approximately 300 Molotov cocktails and explosives, as well as stones and curses, have been thrown at Jewish worshipers at the site. However, the world attaches no significance to this holy site for Judaism, which the Bible calls “the place of the matriarch Rachel’ lamentation, mourning her sons leaving for Diaspora,” a place where Jews came to cry and pray for centuries.

Those that attack the visitors to the site are the very people who demand that the areas of such holy sites by transferred to their authority, people who claim that they will protect freedom of religion. This is yet another message that Israel fails to convey to the world, as crimes are committed daily against the People of Israel, their heritage, holy places, and places of prayer.

With all of this in mind, Israel can offer the Palestinian Authority negotiations without preconditions. It is Israel that has conceded preconditions, such as an end to criminal acts carried out repeatedly, constant hostility, incitement in the education system, which are not conducive to an atmosphere of peace and co-existence between the parties.

In fact, Israel must demand, backed by the international community, trust, co-existence, and an attempt to truly live together. Just as Europe managed to overcome hatred and caprice, the two sides can also come to agreements regarding borders which will be borders for life rather than for death, borders which will not be measured by the seconds needed to reach shelter in times of terror attacks.

Peace is made between enemies, but enemies who are willing and prepared to make peace.

We have no desire to rule over another people or suppress it, but we are a life-seeking nation which has no desire to put its children in danger. Our hand is outstretched in peace, but if the other side does not have the same intention, even with the most vigorous work of outsiders, real peace will never come to our region.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center