October 19, 2000
“Where Do We Go From Here?”
Israel's far left and right remain philosophically ntrenched.
"We are able to deal with this situation," says Yisrael Medad, a veteran, American-born settlement activist, "because we remember what happened in 1947 to '48. We are returning to our history."
"Everywhere there is fighting," says Janet Aviad, a veteran, American-born Peace Now activist, "it's the settlements that are in the middle. The bypass roads, built for them, have become bloody roads. The logical conclusion is that the sooner settlement activity is stopped and the most problematic settlements are removed, the better."
The violence of Bloody October has united most Israelis behind a shared sense of being under attack and misreported - except the militant right and the militant left.
The settlers are hunkering down behind their barricades. I witnessed one of their historic leaders, Daniella Weiss, haranguing an army colonel, who tried to close the most direct route to her home in Kaddumim because it wasn't safe. "I was here before you came," she yelled, "and I'll be here after you've gone." Then she forced her way through the barrier.
When I asked an old Hebron ideologue, Elyakim Ha'etzni, how it would all end, he replied unequivocally: "It will be war. What I have always predicted is happening."
For all their defiance, though, the settlers are feeling the pressure. The Palestinian violence may seem like a vindication, but living under siege is no fun. "It's very hard," confided Shner Katz, a 40-something teacher, who has lived with his wife and four children in Shilo, between Ramallah and Nablus, for 10 years. "We're being stoned," he said. "We're being shot at all the time. I don't know how much longer we can stand such a situation."
We were talking after the funeral of Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, who was murdered near Nablus on the eve of Yom Kippur. Did that mean he was thinking of pulling out, I asked Katz. "We'll never leave," he retorted. "Only our dead bodies will leave from this place. This is our country, this is our home."
Across the ideological divide, Intifada No. 2 (with guns this time) has been a sobering experience. The doves have not become hawks, but they are lowering their expectations. Shimon Peres's vision of a New Middle East has faded with every rock and petrol bomb, with every AK-47 volley of automatic fire. The lynching of two reserve soldiers in Ramallah was the last straw, but the camel's back was already sagging. "I understand the Palestinian perspective," said Peace Now's Aviad, "but I accept it only in part. "These last three weeks have brought us to a grave crisis. Even some of the people who have participated in the grass-roots peace work have doubts about the trustworthiness of their Palestinian friends. Everyone has been shocked by the expressions of hatred for each other on both sides."
So where does peace go from here? Aviad remains convinced that, sooner or later, Israel will have to go back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. "We have to continue," Aviad answered. "We have to return to people-to-people activities. We have to urge our political leaders to return to the table in a pragmatic, sanguine approach. The aim must be to separate these two people as much as possible, to place each in an equal position to the other."