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Israel the "Ashkenazi Trick"

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  • World View
    Interestingly, a people who wanted to escape racism against Jews, turned racist itself. I suppose that psychologists would have a professional explanation for
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2005
      Interestingly, a people who wanted to escape racism against Jews,
      turned racist itself. I suppose that psychologists would have a
      professional explanation for this. But pretty, it is not.

      Another aspect is the one that the title refers to: the political
      one. It is not only in the past that "All the leaders speak about
      peace, Golda Meir used to say that she was willing to travel
      anywhere in the world to make peace. But these were not truthful
      words. In the archive, in the Israeli papers, I found that all the
      Arab leaders were practical people, people who wanted peace," but it
      is true even in recent times that the Arabs not the Israeli leaders
      want peace, vis, for instance, Israel's reaction to the generous
      offer of the Saudi Arabian peace plan. Shlaim's "book gives a
      clear sense of a state that could not get enough," and in this, too,
      nothing has changed. The smoke screen of the so-called
      disengagement is keeping eyes off the West Bank and Jerusalem, where
      the wall is enclosing Palestinians in ghettos that cut off from
      their fields, olive groves, school, hospitals, and separate members
      of families from one another, making a Palestinian state
      impossible. All of this appears to be with Bush's
      approval. Tonight on an interview televised on the 1st channel's
      Friday weekly, Bush 3 times referred to Gaza as the Palestinian
      state. One thing is for certain: many more Palestinians and
      Israelis will suffer and be killed before the mess here ends.
      Anything that you can do—e.g., support economic sanctions, please
      do. We need your help.

      Dorothy, Israel


      No peaceful solution
      By Meron Rapoport
      Ha'aretz Friday Magazine August 12, 2005

      Hebrew: http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/pages/ShArtPE.jhtml?

      And apparently, despite his very innocent appearance, with his curls
      and his slow speech, Avi Shlaim - the third and least familiar
      member of the group of new historians - knows that he is a sort of
      enemy of the people, and even enjoys it with refined British
      enjoyment. And now he has come to Israel, armed with his book, "The
      Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World."

      After reading the 573 pages of the book, one can understand why
      Sharon and Livnat do not want Shlaim to be taught here: in very
      readable prose, based on facts, he surveys the history of Israel's
      contacts with the Arab world from 1948 to 2000, and states
      decisively ("The job of the historian is to judge," he says) that
      the Israeli story that Israel has always stretched out its hand to
      peace, but there was nobody to talk to - is groundless. The Arabs
      have repeatedly outstretched a hand to peace - says Shlaim - and
      Israel has always rejected it. Each time with a different excuse.

      Among the new historians, Avi Shlaim is the most "classical." Benny
      Morris began as a journalist with a conscience, served time in a
      military prison for refusal to serve in Lebanon, and from this
      starting-point, came to write the "new history" about the creation
      of the refugee problem. Ilan Pappe was an activist in the non-
      Zionist left even before he went to complete his doctoral studies at

      Shlaim did not come from a political background. He studied history
      at Cambridge so he could serve as a diplomat in the Israeli Foreign
      Service, a job chosen for him by his mother, who fell in love with
      the British Foreign Service when her family found refuge in the
      British Embassy in Baghdad during the anti-Jewish riots there in

      Only after he had taught international relations for several years
      at the University of Reading (specializing in European issues), and
      only after moving to Oxford, did he begin to take an interest in the
      history of that country, Israel, where he had lived between the ages
      of five and 16, and where he did two-and-a-half years of military
      service. This interest began in no small part thanks to one student,
      whose doctoral thesis he read as an outside examiner. The name of
      the student was Ilan Pappe.

      Chance brought the new historians together. In 1988, Simha Flapan
      published his book "The Birth of Israel: Myths and Reality," Ilan
      Pappe published "Britain and the Arab-Israel Conflict, 1948-51,"
      Benny Morris published "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee
      Problem" and Shlaim published "Collusion Across the Jordan: King
      Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine."
      Shabtai Tevet, Ben-Gurion's biographer, published in Haaretz a
      no-holds-barred attack on what he called "the new historians." Benny
      Morris replied, and he and Ilan Pappe continued to fight that war,
      which quickly went beyond a simple academic debate.

      But while Morris and Pappe were clashing here with the guardians of
      the "old history," which claimed that the Palestinian refugees left
      of their own free will and that the Zionist movement was always
      peace-loving, Shlaim remained in England, continued to teach at
      Oxford, to publish articles and to write books about the Israeli-
      Arab conflict. "The Iron Wall" was published in Great Britain in
      2000, and sold over 45,000 copies, a best-seller in academic terms.
      Since then it has been translated into four languages, first into
      Arabic and recently into Portuguese, in Brazil.

      The book is being published in Hebrew only now, at the initiative of
      Yaakov Sharett, the son of Israel's first foreign minister Moshe
      Sharett, who decided on his own to translate the book, and
      approached Aliyat Gag publishers with a completed manuscript. Shlaim
      had already approached five publishers in Israel asking them to
      translate the book, and was turned down. "Not interesting," they
      told him. This is Shlaim's first book to appear in Hebrew.

      A life of luxury in Baghdad

      Not only does Shlaim's academic career differ from that of his
      friends, so does his biography. Pappe was born on the Carmel in
      Haifa, Morris was born in England. Shlaim was born in Baghdad in
      1945, to a wealthy family with a magnificent three-story house and
      10 servants, including a special servant who went to the market to
      do the shopping. His father was an importer of building materials,
      and hobnobbed with the heads of the Iraqi government, including then-
      prime minister Nuri Said.

      "Most of the ministers were customers of ours," says Shlaim. "They
      used to come to our house and order building materials for their
      houses. They never paid, but in return they ordered work for the
      government from us, and paid much more than necessary. That was
      corruption, but not brutal corruption, as with Saddam Hussein. That
      was an old Arab political culture, a culture of compromise."

      His mother was connected to the British government. Her father was
      the British army's head interpreter in Iraq during World War II, two
      of her brothers served in British intelligence as interpreters, and
      received British citizenship. That helped them later on, when they
      wanted to leave Iraq.

      Shlaim describes a home in which Judaism was not an important
      component of his parents' identity. "Judaism was ritual," he
      says. "My parents used to attend the synagogue once a year, at home
      we spoke Judeo-Arabic, we listened to Arabic music. Nor was Zionism
      important, my parents had no empathy for it. There were Zionist
      agents who tried to create propaganda, but it didn't impress the
      Jewish elite and the middle class. There was no tradition of
      persecution or anti-Semitism in Iraq."

      The first pogrom took place in 1941, in Farhoud, in the context of
      the (pro-Nazi) Iraqi rebellion against British rule. The real
      problems began with Israel's War of Independence in 1948, says
      Shlaim, when the harassment began. The climax came when a hand
      grenade was thrown into the central synagogue in Baghdad in
      1951, "and from that day to this, there have been rumors that an
      Israeli agent tossed the grenade."

      And have you, as a historian, tried to check out these rumors?

      "At the state archives, I asked for the file on Baghdad in 1950.
      Although by law these documents are already supposed to be released,
      they told me that the file was closed and that I couldn't see it. An
      acquaintance of mine told me that he had examined the file, and that
      there was no Israeli involvement recorded in it. All those involved
      in bringing the Jews of Iraq to Israel - Shlomo Hillel, Mordechai
      Ben Porat - vigorously deny that there was such involvement."

      And what do you think?

      "I don't have enough tools as a historian. I only know that Sharett
      wrote in his diary, relating to the `stinking affair' in Egypt (in
      which Israeli agents placed bombs in movie theaters in Cairo, to
      cause conflict between Egypt and Britain), that `there was a similar
      case in Iraq.' He doesn't explain, but Sharett apparently suspected
      that the Mossad had tossed the grenade.

      "I think - I can't prove it - that there was an understanding
      between the Iraqi government and the Israeli government. An
      understanding, not an agreement. Israel asked Iraq to let the Jews
      immigrate, the Iraqis said: We are not opposed, but the Jews are
      filling central positions here in the Iraqi economy, so Israel said:
      Leave the Jewish property in Iraq. That accords with the behavior of
      the Iraqi government. Immediately after the grenade was thrown, the
      Jews of Iraq started to panic, and then the government issued a law
      that any Iraqi - they wrote `Iraqi' rather than `Jew' specifically -
      who wanted to leave the country, could leave if he registered by a
      certain date, but would have to surrender his citizenship.

      "Out of the 130,000 Jews in Iraq, 100,000 registered, including my
      father. And then, immediately afterward, a new law was issued, to
      the effect that any Iraqi who had given up his citizenship was
      giving up all his other rights, including property rights. My father
      was sure that he would have enough time to sell his property, but
      then it turned out that he had lost everything: a house and
      warehouses and merchandise worth half a million pounds sterling at
      the time. In the end, he was even forced to cross the border
      illegally on a mule, because he was the guarantor of the debts of
      another Jew who had disappeared. I, my mother and my sisters, with
      our British citizenship, left Iraq on a regular flight to Cyprus,
      and met up with my father in Israel."

      Then you in effect agree with the members of the Mizrahi Democratic
      Rainbow, who say that the Jews were brought from the Arab countries
      to provide "raw material" to shore up Zionism in Israel?

      "That theory is very convincing. We won the War of Independence and
      founded a state, but the number of inhabitants was very small, fewer
      than 1 million. For Ben-Gurion, the top priority was aliyah
      (immigration), and the large reservoir of Jews was no longer in
      Europe, but in the Arab countries. We are not refugees, nobody
      expelled us from Iraq, nobody told us that we were unwanted. But we
      are the victims of the Israeli-Arab conflict."

      He knows what nationalism is

      Shlaim, five years old at the time, landed with his parents in Ramat
      Gan. His father managed to bring some money with him, and tried to
      do business here, but failed. "They cheated him. In Baghdad, if you
      gave a check and it bounced, you wouldn't show your face again. Here
      it was a badge of honor," says Shlaim. His mother, who hadn't worked
      a day in her life, found work as a telephone operator in the Ramat
      Gan municipality. She acclimated, as did Shlaim and his sisters.
      They learned Hebrew quickly, although they continued to speak Arabic
      with their parents.

      He was somewhat ashamed of his father, especially when he would call
      to him in Arabic in the street, but he didn't dare to ask him not to
      speak Arabic to him in front of strangers. "He was a broken man, but
      he continued to dress and to behave like a respectable man, very
      polite, he didn't interrupt and he was not aggressive," says
      Shlaim. "He brought with him from Baghdad all the suits that his
      tailor had sewn for him from British fabric. He didn't have any
      work, and he would go down to the street, in a suit and an ironed
      shirt and a tie, and go to the cafes to sit with his friends from
      Iraq, who also had no work, and also walked around in the street in
      their suits."

      And did you try to talk to him?

      "He didn't talk about Iraq, he was silent. Today I'm interested in
      his trauma and I'm interested in why he didn't speak at the time.
      Maybe he spoke and I didn't show any interest. Children, apparently,
      are not interested in history. He died in 1971."

      Quite a few Iraqi children were in Shlaim's class in Ramat Gan, but
      the Ashkenazi children set the tone. "I didn't encounter
      discrimination, and I didn't feel deprived, but the atmosphere was
      that anything Ashkenazi was good, and anything Arab was primitive,"
      says Shlaim. "I felt I had accomplished something when I had
      Ashkenazi friends. I remember that one boy placed his hand on my
      shoulder and said to me: You're my best friend. I was amazed that he
      didn't feel that I was inferior."

      In the classroom, Shlaim sat in back, didn't do homework, didn't say
      a word. His grades were poor. To everyone's surprise, he passed the
      seker, the test that was administered at the time in eighth grade,
      prior to the selection for high schools. His homeroom teacher was
      surprised too, and made sure to tell him so. "Her name was Miriam
      Glans, and she was a good teacher, of yekke (German Jewish) origin.
      But she was hostile. When I received the results of the seker, she
      came to me and said: `You know that you passed only because of
      special dispensations they give Mizrahim (Jews of North African or
      Middle Eastern origin)."

      Were you insulted?

      "I was insulted, but I didn't say anything. She should have been
      happy, she shouldn't have said that."

      This humiliation marked the beginning of Shlaim's successful career.
      Two years later, to save him from the clutches of the high school
      that prophesied certain failure for him, Shlaim's mother decided to
      send him to England, to her brother who had immigrated there after
      leaving Iraq. Shlaim arrived in London in 1962 at the age of 16,
      studied in a Jewish school, and no longer felt like a foreigner.
      Just the opposite. The fact that he came from Israel turned him into
      a star, an attraction. He completed high school with high grades,
      returned to Israel to serve in the army, and even now recalls his
      swearing-in ceremony during basic training.

      "It was in the Judean Hills, and the slogan was `In blood and fire
      Judea fell, in blood and fire it will rise.' I remember that I had
      the feeling that we were surrounded by enemies and that I was ready
      to die for the homeland. Today that helps me as a researcher. I know
      what nationalism is. I have felt it inside me."

      After the army he returned to study history at Cambridge, married a
      great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George, who was the British prime
      minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration, returned to Israel
      to be accepted into the Israeli Foreign Service, but then was
      informed that he had received a position as a reader at the
      University of Reading's department of international relations. In
      1987 he was appointed a professor at Oxford, where he is a Fellow at
      the prestigious St. Anthony's College. And as far as is known, he
      achieved all that without special dispensations for Mizrahim.

      I didn't feel ashamed, but I was astonished

      At the start of his academic career, says Shlaim, he made a
      deliberate decision not to deal with the Middle East conflict.
      Slowly but surely, however, he was pulled into it. An article here,
      an article there. In 1982 he came to Israel with a stipend to write
      a study on the influence of the Israel Defense Forces on Israeli
      foreign policy. Just then the archives dealing with the 1948 war
      were opened, and Shlaim found himself sitting in the State Archive
      for days on end. "Then my eyes were opened," he says. "I had the
      knowledge acquired in childhood, and I believed in Israel's purity
      of arms, I believed that Israel was the victim. I discovered
      documents that showed me other things."

      Benny Morris once told me that when he found a document that proved
      an act of massacre or murder, he was happy about the historical
      discovery, but felt shame as an Israeli. What did you feel?

      "I didn't sit in the IDF archive and I wasn't exposed to documents
      about acts of murder or rape. I worked with diplomatic papers. I
      didn't feel shame, but I was astonished. I knew that in every
      country there's a gap between rhetoric and practice, but I don't
      know of any country where the gap is as great as in Israel. All the
      leaders speak about peace, Golda Meir used to say that she was
      willing to travel anywhere in the world to make peace. But these
      were not truthful words. In the archive, in the Israeli papers, I
      found that all the Arab leaders were practical people, people who
      wanted peace.

      "Take, for example, Hosni Zaim (the Syrian chief of staff who took
      over the government in 1949 and was deposed a few months later -
      M.R.). He said that his ambition was to be the first Arab leader to
      make peace with Israel. He proposed an exchange of ambassadors,
      agreed to absorb a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees in
      Syria, but demanded that the border pass through the middle of Lake
      Kinneret. He didn't issue any ultimatum about the rest of the
      refugees. I was astonished by the Israeli reaction. Ben-Gurion said:
      First we'll sign a cease-fire agreement with Syria, then we'll see.
      That destroyed my childhood version. It's not that Ben-Gurion didn't
      want peace, he wanted peace, but on the basis of the status quo.
      Israel said at the time that there was nobody to talk to. The truth
      is that Israel was actually saying that there was nothing to talk

      Based on this statement, which took shape among the shelves of the
      State Archive in Jerusalem, Shlaim wrote his book "Collusion in
      Transjordan," which was published the same year as the books by
      Morris, Pappe and Flapan, those same famous - or infamous - "new
      historians," depending on the eye of the beholder.

      In an article by Shlaim a few years ago, he summarized what seemed
      to him the five main arguments of the new historians:

      * The official version said that Britain tried to prevent the
      establishment of a Jewish state; the "new historians" claimed that
      it tried to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state

      * The official version said that the Palestinians fled their homes
      of their own free will; the "new historians" said that the refugees
      were chased out or expelled

      * The official version said that the balance of power was in favor
      of the Arabs; the "new historians" said that Israel had the
      advantage both in manpower and in arms

      * The official version said that the Arabs had a coordinated plan to
      destroy Israel; the "new historians" said that the Arabs were divided

      * The official version said that Arab intransigence prevented peace;
      the "new historians" said that Israel is primarily to blame for the
      dead end.

      This group has meanwhile disintegrated. Morris' ideological
      revolution after the outbreak of the second intifada, during which
      he in effect justified the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948,
      distanced him from Shlaim. "He went off his rocker, and expressed
      racist views," says Shlaim. "That undermines him as a scholar."

      In Shlaim's opinion, Pappe made a mistake by politically defending
      the research of Teddy Katz about the massacre in Tantura, and made
      an even bigger mistake when he supported the academic boycott of
      Israel. "That is a totally stupid and absurd idea," he says. "Under
      no circumstances am I willing to support an embargo on dialogue." He
      maintains good personal relations, by the way, with both of them.

      From the start, Shlaim was interested in the last of the five points
      discussed by the new historians: He was interested in the history of
      the dead end in the relations between Israel and the Arab
      world. "The Iron Wall" is an abridged history of this dead end. The
      book took its name from the famous article published by revisionist
      leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky in 1923. "Their voluntary agreement is out
      of the question ...," wrote Jabotinsky in that article. "This
      colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the
      protection of a force independent of the local population - an
      iron wall that the native population cannot break through."

      Jabotinsky was in the minority at the time, Mapai (the forerunner of
      the Labor Party) was in the majority, and Ben-Gurion disdained
      Jabotinsky. But in effect, claims Shlaim, Ben-Gurion and the Zionist
      movement, and the State of Israel in its wake, adopted the theory of
      the "iron wall." In other words, they believed that the only
      important thing was to "establish facts on the ground," and
      therefore, there was no point in entering negotiations with the
      Arabs. They only forgot the end of Jabotinsky's article, remarks
      Shlaim, where he said that after the Arabs had come to terms with
      the "iron wall," it would be possible to speak to them about mutual

      According to Shlaim, the first 10 years of the State of Israel prove
      this argument. King Farouk of Egypt wanted an agreement, and Israel
      rebuffed him. King Abdullah of Jordan wanted an agreement, and
      Israel rebuffed him as well. We have already mentioned Zaim of
      Syria. Even the archenemy Nasser, writes Shlaim in one of the
      surprising revelations of the book, sent emissaries and even a
      personal letter to then-prime minister Sharett, to put out feelers
      for an agreement. He was also turned down out of hand.

      The book gives a clear sense of a state that could not get enough.
      Moshe Dayan, then chief of staff, pressed for war with Egypt to
      capture the Gaza Strip and Sharm el-Sheikh, and "raised a
      suggestion" to capture the West Bank. Yigal Allon pressed for
      remedying the "long-term mistake" made in 1948, by capturing and
      annexing the West Bank. Ben-Gurion toyed with this idea and once
      with another idea; in 1956, a moment before the Sinai Campaign, he
      explained his great dream to his new friends from France: Israel
      would occupy the Sinai Peninsula, take over the West Bank and
      dismantle the Kingdom of Jordan, and reach the Litani River in
      Lebanon, establishing a Maronite state in northern Lebanon. The
      entire Israeli leadership (with the exception of Moshe Sharett),
      says Shlaim, adopted the idea of the "iron wall." The only argument
      was about where to place it.

      Every meeting is important

      Mordechai ("Moraleh") Bar-On was there when Ben-Gurion revealed
      his "grand plan" in the Sevres Palace near Paris. He was then
      serving as the head of Dayan's office, and was involved in many
      secret and non-secret contacts. Today he himself is a historian, as
      well as a personal friend of Shlaim. We are sitting on the balcony
      of Bar-On's home in Jerusalem's German Colony, the bastion of the
      Israeli elite, a place to which Shlaim never belonged, and
      discussing what happened.

      Bar-On was active in Peace Now, and he does not really have any
      argument with Shlaim as to the facts. He has a serious disagreement
      with him regarding Shlaim's interpretation of them. It's true that
      Israel rejected all the Arab proposals, he says, and it's true that
      up until May 1967, the Arabs had no real plan to attack Israel. But
      the Arab proposals were unacceptable, and the war was unavoidable,
      because the Arabs could not forget what the Israelis had done to
      them in 1948.

      Bar-On remembers Ben-Gurion's "grand plan" speech. "I was
      embarrassed when I heard it, it sounded like a text from the
      Versailles Conference," he says. But he admits that thoughts of
      expansion, at least in the direction of Egypt, were very common in
      the 1950s. "It's true that from 1955 on, Dayan pressed for war with
      Egypt. He begged the Old Man [Ben-Gurion] to embark on `a war of
      deterrence,' and the Old Man didn't agree. In December 1955, Dayan
      met with 50 officers and asked them who supported a war of
      deterrence. All of them, with one exception, voted in favor. Dayan
      didn't receive permission from Ben-Gurion to embark on a war of
      choice, but he did get permission to cause the situation to
      deteriorate. In one of the retaliation operations in the
      demilitarized area in Nitzana, he wanted to leave the forces in place
      until morning, in the hope that Egypt would attack."

      In the end, Ben-Gurion ordered him to withdraw the forces and Dayan
      gave in. Bar-On admits that Dayan wanted to get Egypt out of the
      Gaza Strip and create a strip from El Arish to Sharm el-Sheikh under
      Israeli control. "That was territorial expansion," says Bar-On, "but
      it stemmed from what Dayan saw as Israel's strategic weakness. There
      was no ideological issue here."

      Shlaim, on the other hand, considers Dayan and Ben-Gurion the source
      of all evil. Ben-Gurion was a wicked man, Dayan thought in terms of
      a perpetual conflict. Sharett was the only one who tried to fight
      them. He represented another school, a school that believed that
      dialogue with the Arabs was possible, that what Israel did, and even
      what Israel said, affected the dynamics of the conflict. "I think
      that there were two schools," says Shlaim, "and when Ben-Gurion
      dismissed Sharett in 1956, he destroyed the moderate school, and it
      was never revived. That school had no leader, Abba Eban didn't

      Nonsense, says Bar-On with a dismissive wave of his hand, "there
      weren't two schools. There was a strong, dominant school, that of
      Ben-Gurion, and there was a small, weak one, that of Sharett."

      Shlaim claims that the retaliation operations in the 1950s, Dayan's
      baby, led to a deterioration, to an intensification of the hatred
      and to a distancing of the chance for dialogue. That was why Sharett
      fought against it with all his might. Fought and lost. Bar-On agrees
      that at least in the Egyptian sector, the retaliation operations
      were what gave rise to the fedayeen operations from the Gaza Strip,
      and they in turn led to the Sinai Campaign. But Dayan thought, says
      Bar-On, that the Arabs hated us in any case, and therefore it made
      no difference how much force we used.

      Bar-On thinks he was right. "Sharett thought that if we behaved
      nicely, the Arabs wouldn't make trouble. And if we didn't behave
      nicely, Arab hatred would increase. I think that he was mistaken on
      two counts. There were 750,000 Palestinian refugees in Israel, we
      screwed them in 1948, they had good reasons for hatred, so what if
      we added another two or three kilos of hatred? If it was possible to
      carry out a good operation, it had to be done. The basic situation
      in the Arab world was refusal to accept the situation of 1948, and
      it was childish to think that anything would help."

      This is exactly where Shlaim differs with Bar-On. Abdel Rahman
      Sadek, who was the Egyptian press officer in Paris, conducted the
      contacts with Israel on Nasser's behalf in 1955. "This dialogue was
      not about peace," says Shlaim, "it was about relieving the tension,
      reducing the propaganda, lifting trade restrictions, things that
      could have improved the atmosphere, served as a lead."

      Bar-On: A lead to what?

      Shlaim: "To an attempt to understand one another, to the beginning
      of a dialogue beyond the lines of conflict."

      Bar-On: "I totally disagree here with Avi. Abdullah could not have
      passed a peace treaty in his government. The matter of Zaim was not
      serious. Ben-Gurion was mistaken in not meeting with him, only
      because that would have prevented Avi from writing his article.
      Nasser was more serious, but they were not talking about peace
      there. Israel did not want to get peace under the minimal conditions
      that the Arabs were willing to discuss: the UN Partition Plan
      borders and the return of the refugees. Had we agreed to that, there
      would be no State of Israel today."

      Shlaim: "Not everything is war or peace. There are also interim
      agreements. Every contact, every meeting is important. The Sinai
      Campaign intensified the hostility, intensified the hatred; in 1964
      they created the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization),
      established a united Arab headquarters. For the first time, the goal
      of the Arab League was to destroy Israel. That was the result of the
      Sinai Campaign, and that is what led to the Six-Day War."

      The two actually agree about the Six-Day War. In 1967, the moment
      occurred when the iron wall became a reality in Arab awareness. From
      that moment on, the Arabs understood that they could not defeat
      Israel, and the only way to get anything from it was through
      negotiations. Bar-On says that "through a wise process," it would
      have been possible at the time to return the territories and achieve
      peace. Shlaim says that immediately after the war, Jordan's King
      Hussein offered a full peace in return for withdrawal from the
      West Bank, but "Galili and Allon and the other land robbers" replied
      in the negative. Shlaim believes that this negative answer was the
      continuation of a policy that has been in force since 1948, and
      maybe even prior to that. Bar-On believes it was a localized mistake.

      Shlaim considers Sharon a direct successor of the "iron wall"
      approach. "Sharon never believed that the process could be resolved
      by peaceful means," says Shlaim. "He was always the master of
      violent solutions. He has been the prime minister for four years,
      and he hasn't had a single meeting about the final-status agreement.
      For Jabotinsky, the iron wall was a metaphor. For Sharon, the wall
      has turned into a physical reality that mars the landscape, destroys
      the environment and in the long term is destroying two societies,
      Palestinian society and Israeli society. The left supports a fence,
      but I don't believe that it will lead to an agreement."

      But what does Shlaim know? Shlaim told me when we were still in the
      cafe that since he was a child, Israel has looked to him like
      an "Ashkenazi trick" of which he doesn't feel a part. "I'm not
      certain even now that I know how that trick works."



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