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(Un)holy River

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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Source: Gush Shalom


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SO HERE comes John Kerry again, for the umpteenth time (but who is counting?) to make peace between us and the Palestinians.

It is a highly laudable effort. Unfortunately, it is based on a false premise. To wit: that the Israeli government wants peace based on the two-state solution.

Unwilling -- or unable -- to recognize this simple truth, Kerry looks for a way around. He tries approaches from different directions, in the hope of convincing Binyamin Netanyahu. In his imagination he hears Netanyahu exclaim: "Now, why didn't I think of that?!"

So here he comes with a new idea: to start by solving Israel's security problems and doing away with its worries.

Let's not talk for now about the other "core problems," he says. "Let's look at your concerns and see how to meet them. I have brought with me an honest-to-goodness combat general with an honest-to-goodness security plan. Have a look at it!"

This approach is based on the false premise -- the offspring of the overall premise -- that the "security concerns" cited by our government are genuine. Kerry is expressing the basic American belief that if reasonable people sit around a table and analyze a problem, they will find a solution.

So there is a plan. General John Allen, a former commander of the war in Afghanistan, puts it on the table and explains its merits. It addresses many worries. The main subject is the insistence of the Israeli army that whatever the borders of the future State of Palestine, Israel must continue for a long, long time to control the Jordan valley.

Since the Jordan valley constitutes about 20% of the West Bank, which together with the Gaza Strip constitutes altogether about 22% of the former country of Palestine, this is a non-starter.

For our government, that is its main value.

THE JORDAN, one of the most celebrated rivers in world history, is actually a smallish creek about 250 km long and a few dozen meters wide. Its sources are on the Syrian highlands (a.k.a. the Golan Heights) and it ends ingloriously in the Dead Sea, which is actually an inland lake. Not much of a river.

How did it attain its present strategic importance?

The following account is simplified, but not far removed from what actually happened.

Immediately after the June 1967 war, when all the Palestinian lands had fallen into Israel's hands, groups of agricultural experts swarmed over the West Bank to see what could be exploited.

Most of the West Bank consists of stony hills, very picturesque but hardly suited to modern agricultural methods. Every inch of arable land was used by the Palestinian villages, using terraces and other ancient methods. No good for new kibbutzim. Except the Jordan valley.

This valley, part of the huge Syrian-African rift, is flat. Lodged between the river and the central Palestinian mountain ridge, it also has ample water. For the trained eye of a kibbutznik, it was ideal for agricultural machinery. It was also sparsely populated.

Almost all important Israeli leaders at the time had an agricultural background. Levy Eshkol, the Prime Minister, had been responsible for many years, before the establishment of the state, for the Jewish settlement effort. The Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, was born in a kibbutz and grew up in a Moshav (cooperative village). The Minister of Labor, Yigal Allon, was not only a renowned general of the 1948 war but also a leader of the largest kibbutz movement. His mentor was Israel Galili, another kibbutz leader, the eminence grise of Golda Meir.

IT WAS Allon who provided the military pretext for keeping possession of the Jordan valley.

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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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