You Have to Fight for Your Life

(Ha'aretz) IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon - When I look at the overall map, what disturbs me especially is the Palestinian threat and the possibility that a hostile state will acquire nuclear capability. Those are the most worrisome focal points, because both of them have the potential of being an existential threat to Israel. The campaign between the Palestinians and us is between two societies that are competing for territory and, to a certain degree, for existence. I don't think that there is an existential threat to the Palestinian society. There is an existential threat to us. In other words, there is asymmetry here, but it is reversed: Everyone thinks we are Goliath and they are David, but it is the opposite. The Palestinians feel that they have the backing of a quarter-of-a-billion Arabs and they believe that time is on their side and that, with a combination of terrorism and demography, they will tire us out and wear us down. There is also an additional reverse asymmetry here: We do not have intentions to annihilate them and we have also expressed readiness to grant them a state, whereas they are unwilling to recognize our right to exist here as a Jewish state. If the term "occupation" had any relevance at all, it lost it in the year 2000, when the State of Israel put a certain proposal on the table that was supposed to resolve the problem. That proposal was supposed to get the Palestinians off our back, but instead they started to stab us. That is the reality. Therefore, the story is not occupation. The story is non-recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Q: Are you saying unequivocally that the Palestinian struggle is not aimed at liberating the territories that were conquered in 1967? Ya'alon: Of course not. The Palestinians have three stories. Their narrative in Arabic is one of mobilization for a war of jihad and non-recognition of Israel's right to exist. That narrative rejects any attachment between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and it mobilizes the Palestinian people for a war with the goal of bringing about Israel's collapse. In English, the story is different: occupation, colonialism, apartheid. Those are completely irrelevant terms, which are intended to furnish the Western world with familiar terminology that clarifies who the good guys are here and who the bad guys are. In Hebrew, they have a third story: the peace of the brave. But I know the details and I say that Arafat is taking the name of Yitzhak Rabin, of blessed memory, in vain. What they are after is not to arrive at the end of the conflict, but to turn Israel into a Palestinian state. Q: In other words, the goal of Arafat and of Fatah is to liquidate Israel by stages? Ya'alon: Of course. Not to reach an agreement and not to arrive at the end of their claims, in order to preserve the conflict and to let time run its course according to the phased theory. I find the situation [after the Oslo agreement] far more convenient today. When I move, in the end, to fight against what the Palestinians are creating, I think that after what we went through in the past nine years, I have fewer question marks and more exclamation marks. For me, moral clarity has emerged here. Yasser Arafat maintains that Israel is a spider-web society: It looks strong from the outside, but touch it and it will fall apart. He is constantly looking for the cracks in the Israeli wall. Time after time, he promises his people that Israeli society is about to break. Operation Defensive Shield showed them that they were dealing not with a spider web, but with a tiger. But if they see cracks and a chance of [Israel's] disintegration, a prospect of Israeli capitulation, that achievement will be erased. Q: Is it clear to you what Israel's goal in this war is? Ya'alon: The very deep internalization by the Palestinians that terrorism and violence will not defeat us, will not make us fold. If that deep internalization does no

2002-08-30 00:00:00

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