Realism for Our Time

By Limor Livnat
The Jerusalem Post 25 February 2001

The Jerusalem Post February, 25 2001 Realism for our time By Limor Livnat

    (February 25) - The election results have well-intentioned peaceniks remonstrating over the increased likelihood of war. But, in fact, two out of every three Israeli voters believe that if war is to be prevented, it is precisely because of the Likud's realistic approach to foreign policy and not the wide-eyed, yet shortsighted, idealism of the Left.

    By recklessly eroding Israel's diplomatic stance and strategic position vis-^-vis the Palestinians, the Barak government brought us closer to confrontation rather than distancing us from it.

    By accepting the 100 percent peace-paradigm (97% of Judea and Samaria, 3% in the Negev) and the division of Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Barak endorsed the PLO's interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, an interpretation that mistakenly negates Israel's right to secure borders and demands a 100% reversal of the Six Day War.

    A second dose of diplomatic damage left by the Barak legacy is what the PLO learned from the "Aksa intifada." Though the Barak government admitted in the white paper it published in November 2000, that the PLO had systematically violated the Oslo accords since their signature in 1993, it did not take any retaliatory measures against these violations. The government should have made it clear that an agreement, when violated, becomes null and void.

    Instead, it continued to negotiate on the basis of Oslo while the PLO was using violence, freeing Hamas terrorists, importing illegal weapons, tolerating the destruction of Jewish holy sites, conducting a campaign of anti-Israel and antisemitic incitement in its controlled media and schools, and bombing and shooting in Israel's cities.

    Finally, Barak hurt Israel's diplomatic stance by endorsing the naive, Wilsonian-like "peace-making" diplomacy of former president Bill Clinton. For praiseworthy as they were, Clinton's good intentions for the Middle East were as unrealistic as Wilson's "14 points" plan for post-War Europe.

    Not every conflict has a solution, an instant "alternative," and at times lowering the risks of escalation is more realistic than trying to impose unworkable formal peace deals upon the parties.

    As Abba Eban has said, "Problems of war and international rivalry may never be solved, but there is a rational hope that they can be kept in restraint. War prevented is a kind of peace, perhaps the only kind of peace that nations will ever know."

    It is hard to see how a western European type of peace is reachable in a Middle East where war-prone Iraq is building an unconventional military arsenal without UN supervision; where Iran, with Russian and Chinese support, is developing long-range missiles and providing military and financial assistance to Hizbullah in Lebanon and in PLO-controlled areas; and where US interests are openly challenged by Russia. In such a Middle East, realism and prudence are the keys to survival, and peace is achieved through deterrence, not dZtente.

    The new government under Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon will have to repair the damage of the Barak legacy by conducting a realistic foreign policy. It will have to make it clear that the PLO cannot enjoy the best of both worlds, i.e. violate the Oslo accords and then demand concessions in the name of these agreements.

    It will have to explain to its strategic allies that the West can not, on the one hand, demand further concessions from Israel, and on the other hand, be permissive with Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority. Most importantly, it will have to once again stand uncompromisingly by its right to defensible borders in what is its historic homeland.

    Political realism consists of looking at reality as it is and not as we wish it to be. Every Israeli wishes the Middle East were a friendlier region, but fundamentalism, autocracy, and terrorism are still the political staples of our region. Trying to escape reality can only endanger the only possible peace under those circumstances - the prevention of war.

    The near simultaneous election of new leaders in Washington and Jerusalem should open the way to a restored sober view of war and peace in the Middle East. President George W. Bush's nimble actions against the Iraqi menace testify that such change is already under way. Like Bush's administration, the Sharon government will apply to the Middle East the simple rule articulated so well by former president Ronald Reagan: "We cannot play innocents abroad in a world that is not innocent."

(The writer is a Likud Member of the Knesset)




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