Contributing AuthorA contributing author.
The world had not seen celebration like that which greeted the Israeli decision 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 the 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 the Galilee and the Negev to Palestine. 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. 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 ?victims of Jewish discrimination? in the Galilee and Negev 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 protested 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 Left urged people to refuse to do army service outside metropolitan Tel Aviv. 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 7,000 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. When the government proposed to withdraw from Safed, Arutz Sheva radio broadcast non-stop protests against the move. The government then passed a bill that shut down the opposition radio station. Adir Zik and the owners of Arutz Sheva were thrown in jail as inciters against peace. 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 Arab 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 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 Business Administration at the University of Haifa.