- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2000

The frantic sudden withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from Lebanon will be taken correctly throughout the Muslim world as a humiliation for Israel, and, right again, as a startling new military threat to the country: Iran at its borders.

The governments and public of hostile Muslim countries will decide that for the second time in a month they proved armed violence is still the best way of getting what they want from Israel when the payoff through negotiations runs a little slow.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak will either have to change some of his government's basic strategy or forfeit the goal of peace and the safety of Israel's people. To make those changes, he will have to sacrifice political capital by trying to changing the current mindset of his people and some of their illusions, which he and his political partners encouraged.

The willingness eagerness really to give the Hezbollah guerrillas control of the Lebanese southern border was just one of them. The Israeli Cabinet did not know the Hezbollah would move in right away instead of obediently waiting the six more weeks Mr. Barak wanted. And nobody told the Israeli public that the Hezbollah now is armed with Iranian missiles that can reach Haifa and other Israeli cities. More are on the way to Lebanon aboard the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah arms passage. Short of an unthinkable war of mass destruction, that could help tip the balance of terror in favor of the Hezbollah guerrillas. It causes them no tears that Israel might retaliate against Beirut and Damascus.

Among other things the Israeli government and public were willing to do:

• Give up almost 80 percent to 90 percent of Judea and Samaria, a k a the West Bank.

• Create and install a new Palestine that could control much of the Jordan River Valley between Jordan and Israel, now a protection to both countries.

• Give up to the Palestinians border areas essential to effective mobilization and maneuver by Israeli divisions in time of war or non-war.

• Accept the high possibility that those border areas would be ruled by fundamentalists when Yasser Arafat died, or before.

• Agree that Jewish settlers would have to live in scattered areas more subject than ever to attack.

• Offer to surrender the Golan Heights, within mortar range of Israeli towns, if Syria would be kind enough to accept it.

• Give up the Lebanese border areas unilaterally, without figuring out that it would be immediately taken over by the Hezbollah, not the Red Cross.

• Agree that when Mr. Arafat ordered violence over a couple of villages that will be his plainly marked possession and foothold for expansion in Jerusalem, the Israeli Cabinet could immediately go ahead with turning them over.

• Permit Palestinian authorities to continue pouring out anti-Semitism, in contemptuous violation of the non-incitement clauses of Oslo and other agreements.

And both Israeli government and the public somehow convinced themselves that these sacrifices by Israel would not encourage the Palestine to go ahead, after a peace treaty, with what so many consider their duty and destiny the destruction of the Israeli state.

The Israeli public had plenty of support in their illusion. It came from Shimon Peres, now a candidate for the presidency, who tells Israelis that the world has gone from "a world of land to a world of science, so borders lost their importance." That thought unhappily never entered the Hezbollah mind.

Support comes too, according to the zesty Zionist Organization of America, from the former consul general in New York, Collette Avital, now a member of the Knesset. She tells Israel radio that she sees Israel giving up "some of its sovereignty in the entire country" and becoming part of a "larger entity incorporating Israel and a Palestinian state." Both bits of wisdom have the aroma of the "post-Zionist" movement that contests the idea that Israel should remain what it was created to be, a Jewish state. It revises Jewish and Israeli history, downward of course. Read the new classic "The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul" by the impressive Israeli, Yoram Hazony (published by Basic Books).

The victory of the Hezbollah and its suppliers is not apocalypse for Israel or its Zionist character. But Israel's enemies believe both are weakening in spirit. Israel's true friends would be false if they denied they felt it themselves.

Peace cannot be attained passively. Peace cannot be achieved by counting too heavily on a powerful ally that one day may measure its friendship against other interests. Peace can be achieved by an Israel willing to make important concessions, but not without important returns, and not at the risk of making enemies believe it has confused peace with suicide.



A.M. Rosenthal is the former executive editor of the New York Times.

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