May 10, 2001
A Bloody Wait
With the Palestinian murder of two 14-year-old Jews, Yaakov Nathan Mandell and Yosef Ishran, and the killing by Israeli fire of 4-month-old Iman Hejjo, the cycle of violence in Israel seems primal and unstoppable. Blood cries out for blood, the wails of parents drown the speeches of politicians.
Yet the politicians still come.
Last week it was Ephraim Sneh, Israel's minister of transportation. Sneh, a renowned internist, served in the Yom Kippur War and commanded the medical team during the Entebbe Raid. He rose to rank of brigadier general before entering politics, where he has served in the Knesset since 1992.
He arrived before the recent killings, but shortly after others in Gush Etzion, Gaza and Ramallah. As you might discern from his resume, he is not a man given to small talk, so I plunged right in. "Is Israel better or worse off since the Oslo peace process?" I asked.
"No doubt Israel is better off," he shot back. "Oslo started a new era in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and started us down a road of reconciliation which is inevitable. When this phase of the confrontation will be ended, we'll be back at the negotiating table at a higher baseline than before."
When will this phase be ended?
"I don't know. Nobody knows. When the Palestinians understand that nothing will be achieved by violence."
Sneh has seen cycles of violence explode into war, and war dissolve into peace. The current level of bloodshed makes the inevitable rapprochement more difficult, though it provides a good case for the Israelis and Palestinians ultimately separating into two states. To Sneh, that is the only solution.
"Make no mistake," said Sneh. "We are in a conflict against our will. But this conflict will be followed by negotiation."
Like most Israelis, he's no longer talking about good will, but good riddance.