It was in the year 2006. The Israelis at last gave up their attempts to
resist the pressures of the world. They elected a new government headed by
Prime Minister Yossi Beilin, the original promoter of the Oslo Peace Process,
in coalition with the Jewish and Arab parties of the Left. They announced
that Israel was willing to implement the newest Road Map in Full, to accept
the unanimous proposal for peace supported by every single country in the
world, and would return to its pre-1967 borders, remove all Jewish settlements
from the territories of the new state of Palestine, recognize Palestine,
and grant Palestine all of East Jerusalem, that is, all of the city located
east of a line running north-south through Zion Square, renamed Jihad Square.
The world had not seen celebration like it since the fall of the Berlin Wall
or the transferal of power in South Africa to the black majority. All-night
celebrations were held in every city on the planet, but none so enthusiastic
as the party held in Tel Aviv in Rabin Square. Speaker after speaker appeared
under a banner "Liberation at Last," and praised the decision to agree to
the terms of the accord as the ultimate completion of the work and dreams
of Yitzhak Rabin.
The settlers were marched out of the lands of Palestine at bayonet point,
with crowds of jeering Israeli leftists pelting them with garbage as they
moved into their temporary transit camps inside Green Line Israel. Liberal
Jews in the United States organized a million man march in Washington together
with Arabs and the Nation of Islam to celebrate the breaking out of peace
and final settlement of the conflict. Peace at Last was the number one pop
single. The State Department sent out a message urging Israel and Palestine
to conduct good-faith negotiations and round-the-clock talks on all outstanding
issues of disagreement still separating the two sovereign states. At long
last, there were two states for two peoples. Land had been exchanged for
peace. Peace had at long last broken out in the world's most troubled region.
The morning after the Palestine Independence Celebrations, the message arrived
in the Israeli parliament, brought in by special messenger. The newly formed
government of Palestine had only a small number of issues it would like to
discuss with Israel. It proposed that peaceful relations be officially consummated
as soon as Israel turned over to Palestine the Galilee and the Negev.
Israeli cabinet ministers were nonplussed. We thought we had settled all
outstanding territorial issues by giving the Palestinians everything, they
protested. The spokesman for the Palestine War Ministry explained. The Galilee
was obviously part of the Arab homeland. It was filled with many Arabs, and
in many areas had an Arab population majority. Israel was holding 100% of
the Galilee territory, and Palestine none at all, and surely that was unfair.
As for the Negev, it too has large areas with Arab majorities, but is in
fact needed so that Palestine can settle the many Palestinian refugees from
around the world in lands and new homes.
Israel's government preferred not to give offense and sour the new relations,
and so offered to take the proposal under consideration. Within weeks, endorsements
of the Palestinian proposal were coming from a variety of sources. The Arab
League endorsed it. The EU approved a French proposal that the Galilee and
Negev be transferred to Palestine in stages over 3 years. The US State
Department proposed agreement to a new Road Map.
Within Israel, many voices were heard in favor of the proposal. Large rallies
were held on the universities. The Israeli press endorsed the idea almost
in full unison, with only some regional weeklies from the north and south
dissenting. Israeli film producers began turning out documentaries on the
sufferings of Galilee and Negev Arabs under Israeli rule. Sociologists from
around the world produced studies showing that these Arabs were victims of
horrible discrimination and that Israel is characterized by institutional
racism. Israeli poets and novelists wrote passionate appeals for support
of the Galilee and Negev Others.
When Israel's cabinet rejected the proposal, the pressures mounted. A Galilee
and Negev Liberation Organization was founded and immediately granted recognition
by the UN General Assembly. It established consulate facilities in 143 countries.
Weeks later the infiltrations began. Squads of terrorists infiltrated the
borders between Palestine and Israel, and suicide bombers produced a carnage
of 75 murdered Jews a day. The border fences were reinforced, but to no avail.
The US State Department proposed that Israel defuse the situation by considering
compromise on the matters of the Galilee and Negev.
Six months later, the Galilee and Negev victims of Jewish discrimination
decided to escalate their protests. Gangs of Arabs lynched Jews throughout
the disputed territories. Roadblocks were set up, and entire families of
Jews were dragged from their cars by the activists and beaten to death or
doused with flames. The EU sent in observers, but warned Israel that there
is no military solution to the problems of terrorism and violence. When Israel
arrested gang leaders from the riots, the General Assembly denounced Israeli
state terrorism against Galilee and Negev Arabs. French universities gave
the pogrom leaders, Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bashara, honorary doctorates.
Meanwhile, boycotts of Israel arose throughout Europe. Professors at the
US Ivy League colleges demanded a total embargo and divestment from ties
with Israel until it ended its racist apartheid regime. The leaders of the
Reform synagogue movement supported the State Department and demanded that
Israel end its obstinacy.
Israel's own leftists launched a Movement against Apartheid, and the foreign
press reported that 400,000 protesters attended a rally by the Movement in
Rabin Square. Cars around Israel had bumper stickers that read "My Son Will
Not Die for Nazareth", and "Peace Now." The Israeli Labor Party proposed
erecting a series of separating barriers throughout the Galilee under the
slogan "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors".
But Palestine could not sit idly by. Barrages of rockets and mortars drenched
Israeli cities. The death toll rose to 7000 Israelis per month. The White
House and State Department threatened to cut off all supplies from Israel
if it dared to launch reprisal raids against independent Palestine. Large
cargo ships from Egypt laden with advanced arms entered the port of Gaza.
Thousands of volunteers streamed into Palestine to assist in the campaign
to rescue the Galilee and Negev Arabs from Israeli oppression.
On the afternoon of Yom Kippur, tank columns cut Israel in two just north
of Tul Karem. Palestine offered to withdraw in exchange for transferring
the Negev and Galilee to its control. An Israeli newspaper and the Israeli
Peace Movement proposed transferring the disputed areas to EU control until
things could be settled.
Synagogues in Belgium and France were torched. Teach-ins for Palestine were
held on US campuses. A new conference was called in Durban to denounce Israeli
apartheid. The White House insisted that Israel not expel the invading Palestine
troops who had divided the country, for it was a matter for negotiations
and dialogue. The President invited both sides to Camp David, with observers
from the Negev and Galilee militias present.
Increasing numbers of Israeli politicians urged that Israel respond to the
situation by granting limited autonomy to the Negev and the Galilee. The
Americans offered to send in ground troops to protect the remaining Israeli
territories if Israel decided to accept the proposal to give up the Negev
and Galilee. Let's at long last have peace in the hills that Jesus roamed,
suggested the President.
Jews living in the Galilee and Negev were under siege everywhere, and the
roads were unsafe. The road through the Negev to Eilat was cut by militia
gangs in four places. Leftist Israeli professors officially joined the Arab
militias fighting for liberation. Two of them blew themselves up on a Jewish
school bus to show their solidarity with the oppressed Arabs. Ahmed Tibi,
head of the largest militia, insisted he was doing everything possible to
stop the suicide attacks on Tel Aviv and Haifa from the Galilee, but the
Americans demanded that he do more. The UK demanded 100% effort to stop the
violence. The PLO proposed as a compromise that instead of being annexed
by Palestine, the Negev and Galilee be allowed to form a separate state.
The Arab League endorsed the idea.
CNN broadcast a series of specials on the plight of the Negev and Galilee
Arabs, and the BBC started referring to Tel Aviv as illegally occupied Arab
Jaffa. Netanya and Beer Sheba were described by them as illegal colonial
settlements. When the carnage exceeded 10,000 a month, the New York Times for the first time expressed regret in having promoted the peace process and ran as its lead headline "Oops". The Washington Post however urged more Israeli flexibility and concessions. The publishers of Tikkun
Magazine and the Reconstructionist movement announced they would be merging
with the American Buddhist Society. The Economist demanded a new Road Map.
The Negev and Galilee Liberation organizations raised their flags over their
towns and proposed that the Jews living in their territories be resettled
elsewhere. The Palestine War Ministry was shipping them guns and explosives.
The first word came of a detention camp north of Nazareth in which Jews expelled
from their Galilee homes were being concentrated, with a second camp opened
in the Negev near Rahat. Strange black smoke rose from the chimneys.
Steven Plaut teaches at the University of Haifa.
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