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The Dwarfs

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Message Uri Avnery
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JERUSALEM IS abuzz with brilliant new ideas. The brightest minds of our political establishment are grappling with the problems created by the ongoing Arab revolution that is reshaping the landscape around us.

Here is the latest crop of mind-bogglingly innovative ideas:

Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has announced that he is going to ask the US for a grant of another 20 billion dollars for more state-of-the-art fighter planes, missile boats, a submarine, troop carriers and so on.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had his picture taken surrounded by female soldiers -- like Muammar Qaddafi in the good old days -- looking beyond the Jordan River and announcing that the Israeli army would never ever leave the Jordan valley. According to him, this occupied strip of land is Israel's vital "security border."

This slogan is as old as the occupation itself. It was part of the celebrated Allon Plan, which was designed to surround the West Bank with Israeli territory. Incidentally, the father of the plan, Yigal Allon, was also a leader of the Kibbutz movement, and the Jordan valley looked to him like an ideal area for new Kibbutzim -- it is flat, well watered and was sparsely populated.

However, times have changed. When Allon was a legendary commander in the 1948 war, he did not even dream of missiles. Today, missiles launched from beyond the Jordan can easily reach my home in Tel Aviv. When Netanyahu declares that we need the Jordan valley in order to stop the Arabs from smuggling missiles into the West Bank, he is, well, a little bit behind the times.

When the politicians bravely face the new world, the army dares not lag behind. This week, several division commanders announced that they were preparing for Tahrir-style "non-violent mass uprisings" in the West Bank. Troops are trained, riot control means are stocked. Our glorious army is being prepared for yet another colonial police job.

To reinforce the mental vigor of the leadership, Netanyahu has now mobilized an awesome intellect: he has appointed General Yaakov Amidror as Chief of the National Security Council. Amidror, the highest ranking kippa-wearing officer in the army, has never hidden his ultra-ultra nationalist views, including his total opposition to a Palestinian state and peace in general. He is, by the way, the officer who recently mentioned approvingly that some armies put "a bullet into the heads" of soldiers who don't rise to storm an enemy position.

It is only fitting that Netanyahu invited the National Front party, which includes openly fascist elements, to join his government this week. They refused, because Netanyahu is not extreme enough for them.

In the meantime, a dozen top politicians, from Avigdor Lieberman down, have been dusting off moribund plans for "interim agreements" -- old merchandise sitting sadly on the shelves, with no buyers in sight.

All in all: political dwarfs, confronted with a revolutionary new reality which they can neither understand nor cope with. (This is not to insult real-life dwarfs, who are, of course, as intelligent as anyone else.)

WITH THIS bunch of leaders, it is almost utopian to ask what we could and should do to attune ourselves to the new geopolitical reality.

Assuming that the Arab world, or a large part of it, is on the road to democracy and social progress, how will this affect our future?

Can we build bridges to such progressive, multi-party societies? Can we persuade them to accept us as a legitimate part of the region? Can we participate in the political and economic emergence of a "New Middle East"?

I believe we can. But the absolute, unalterable precondition is that we make peace with the Palestinian people.

It is the unshakable -- and self-fulfilling - conviction of the entire Israeli establishment that this is impossible. They are quite right -- as long as they are in charge, it is indeed impossible. But with another leadership, will things be different?

If both sides -- and this depends heavily on Israel, the incomparably stronger side - really want peace, peace is there for the asking. All the requirements are lying plainly on the table. They have been discussed endlessly. The points for compromise are clearly marked. It would need no more than a few weeks to work out the details. Borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, water, security -- we all know by now what the solutions are. (I and others have enumerated them several times.) What is lacking is the political will.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)

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