Posted by: Lister | June 11, 2007

Shlomo Gazit reads the Road Map

Shlomo Gazit was the guy who Israel put in charge of its newly acquired land, 40 years ago. He says the road map is a pretext to not negotiate with the Palestinians.

At first sight Mr Gazit could be a classic military hawk. A tough, unsentimental man with 37 years in the Israeli Defence Forces behind him, he has never been slow in condemning Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. Yet he enjoys the unique distinction of having, from the heart of the Israeli military, proposed in writing a Palestinian state exactly 40 years ago yesterday – 24 hours before the war had even ended.

And he has never been more convinced than now that such a state, its negotiated borders based on those that preceded the war, and involving withdrawal from most of the West Bank Jewish settlements, remains the only answer to the conflict.

[…] his 23-year-old nephew, Dan Engel, was one of the few Israeli pilots reported missing. [After Israel’s assault on Egyptian airfields] “I spent the rest of the week in a kind of trance,” he says.

His grief did not stop him producing a remarkably clear-sighted – and, for the times, heretical – memorandum on 9 June that proposed “the establishment of an independent Palestinian state [without military forces] in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”. The Old City, holy to three great religions, and taken over by triumphant Israeli forces only 48 hours earlier, should “become an ‘open city’ with an independent status resembling the Vatican”.

Obviously, he was not listened to. The occupation gradually became less “invisible”, with settlements and a sizable population. He was optimistic about Oslo, until…

[…] The assassination of the Labour Prime Minister of the time, Yitzhak Rabin, by a Jewish extremist probably dealt the fatal blow to the Oslo process, he admits. But he also believes that “one of the biggest mistakes made by us” after Rabin’s death was the assassination of the senior Hamas militant and bomb-maker, Yahiya Ayyash, in January 1996. It was followed by 60 Israeli deaths in four horrific suicide bombings over the next two months, hastening the collapse of Oslo and Shimon Peres’s premiership. ” Arafat told me he could not tell the extremists they had no right to avenge the killing of Ayyash,” he says.



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