The real estate war
By Gideon Levy
This miserable war in Lebanon, which is just getting more and more complicated for no reason at all, was born in Israel's greed for land. Not that Israel is fighting this time to conquer more land, not at all, but ending the occupation could have prevented this unnecessary war. If Israel had returned the Golan Heights and signed a peace treaty with Syria in a timely fashion, presumably this war would not have broken out.
Peace with Syria would have guaranteed peace with Lebanon and peace with both would have prevented Hezbollah from fortifying on Israel's northern border. Peace with Syria would have also isolated Iran, Israel's true, dangerous enemy, and cut off Hezbollah from one of the two sources of its weapons and funding. It's so simple, and so removed from conventional Israeli thinking, which is subject to brainwashing.
For years, Israel has waged war against the Palestinians with the main motive of insistence on keeping the occupied territories. If not for the settlement enterprise, Israel would have long since retreated from the occupied territories and the struggle's engine would have been significant neutralized. Not that a non-occupying Israel would have turned into the darling of the Arab world, but the destructive fire aimed at Israel would have significantly lessened, and those who continued to fight Israel would have found themselves isolated.
The war against the Palestinians is therefore unequivocally a territorial war, a war for the settlements. In other words, in the West Bank and Gaza, people were killed and are getting killed because of our greed for land. From Golda Meir to Ehud Olmert, the lie has held that the war with the Palestinians is an existential one for survival imposed on Israel when it is actually a war for real estate, one dunam after another, that does not belong to us.
The situation is different with Syria. For 33 years, the Syrians gave up the military effort to reinstate their occupied lands. Israel can pass a dozen Golan Heights laws to annex it, but occupied territory remains occupied territory. During those three decades, the prevailing view in Israel was that there was no need for peace with Syria: The Syrians sat quietly anyway, so why give them back the Golan?
This is the same dangerously foolish thinking that characterized the first 20 years of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians sat quietly, surrendered under the Israeli occupation boot, and it did not occur to anyone to return their territory. Instead, Israel established the settlements. Only when the Palestinians woke up and realized they were going to lose their lands forever did they begin a violent campaign; and only after blood was spilled, did Israel wake up from its dreams and realize that it could not hold onto all of the territories forever. Thus, with regrettable delay and years of bloodshed, the recognition of the PLO, the Oslo accords, the disengagement and the convergence were born - all partial and fake solutions meant to postpone the end of the occupation.
We did not need all of that with the Syrians - after all, they sat quietly all of these years. Now comes the war in Lebanon and proves that this was a mistake. Although the Syrians sat on the sidelines, the danger from that direction was not removed and the delusion that the Golan would forever remain in Israeli hands, without our being asked to pay for its occupation, is now slapping us in the face.
But the current war could yet turn out to be only an appetizer for the coming wars, which will be far more dangerous. The saying that time is on our side is another delusion. The Arab and Muslim world has armed, in all of this time, and the danger of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles is already hovering over our heads. The only response to that is maximum neutralization of the flashpoints, before the bomb arrives. But Israel has chosen to close its eyes and build its future on a horrifyingly temporary quiet, or on more and more war operations.
Just when territory is losing its military importance because of the development of new fighting technology, Israel is using security excuses to stay in the territories. Former-prime minister Ehud Barak criminally missed the opportunity to sign a peace treaty with Syria after he got "cold feet," as witnesses said, and retreated at the last minute. That's how it works with us. When the other side is quiet, why return territories? And when they do go to war, "there's nobody to talk to," and certainly not while we are "under fire."
While we are ready to jump on any war bandwagon, as in this time, we endlessly procrastinate when it comes to peace negotiations. Now, too, when Syria, pushed around by the U.S., desperately wants to return to the "family of nations," is an excellent time to try to make peace with it - but there are those who say now is not the time. What will the Americans say? They, after all, are against any deals with Bashar Assad of "the axis of evil."
So, there it is, another excuse to miss a golden opportunity, another mendacious excuse. As in the case of the peace with Egypt, the move that has guaranteed Israel's security for years far more than any war, and which was put together behind the America's back, America would not be able to oppose a peace agreement with Syria. Now, after we've hit Hezbollah and ruined Lebanon, the prime minister of Israel should declare: the Golan for peace. That could contribute a lot more to our security than a thousand useless daring operations in Baalbek, but it would take a lot more courage than going off to fight another unnecessary and useless war.