The career of Col. Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto is one of the most distinguished in Israel. He played a leading role in the development of the Israel Air Force, and after his retirement from that career he played a vital role in the economic life of the country and later in the Knesset before the Oslo agreements.
His contributions to Israel are so numerous that this entire column would be consumed by simply reciting a portion of them. What is important is that he was sufficiently trusted to be a member of the carefully selected Madrid Peace Mission in November 1991, which was foiled by the Oslo operations of Yossi Beilin. His views about the current Government of Israel and the Oslo peace process are very important. Col. Tsiddon-Chatto was one of those responsible for the electoral reform that instituted in direct elections for the position of Prime Minister, resulting in the present leadership, of Benjamin Netanyahu.
What is perhaps most important is that Col. Tsiddon-Chatto is optimistic about Israel’s future despite the internecine squabbles of the Israeli politicians and the sometimes imperfect performance of the Israeli Government. That confidence is based on the fact that despite those failings, the Jewish population has risen from a mere 500,000 at the end of the Second World War to the present figure of almost five million. The most recent Russian immigration is almost threefold the original population of the Yishuv at the declaration of the existence of the state.
Despite his optimism, however, Gel. Tsiddon-Chatto believes that we are heading for a confrontation with the Palestinian Arabs and perhaps the Arab states as well. What is not certain is when that confrontation will occur. It will certainly come, according to the Colonel, but whether sooner or later is not predictable at this moment.
Whether the confrontation will lead to war is also uncertain at this moment, but it is quite clear that war can be avoided. War or peace will be determined by the ability of the Israelis to deter the Arabs by the strength of their armed forces. If, but for a moment, the Arabs believe that they can win even a moderate or limited victory, war will become inevitable.
To maintain that deterrent power, Col. Tsiddon-Chatto argues that there can be no diminution of the defense budget. This is essential because the question of peace or war depends upon deterrence and the Arab acceptance of Israeli military superiority. Col. Tsiddon-Chatto has discussed in articles published in Israel the fashion in which the budgetary needs can be met.
Within this view of the Israeli situation, Col. Tsiddon-Chatto evaluates the Hebron accords in a purely rational unemotional fashion. It is his view that this agreement is similar to placing highly volatile, explosive material near an open flame in a kitchen. Israel must react vigorously to any incitement. Col. Tsiddon-Chatto recalls having seen a confidential letter from Kissinger to Shamir, reportedly dated Feb. 8. 1988, urging the Israeli leader to react swiftly and with maximum force to suppress the intifada, accepting the fact that there would be a momentary sharp, negative international reaction and censure which would die down very quickly and would soon be forgotten. If however, the situation was permitted to fester, it would become a chronic problem.
The Oslo process is doomed to failure as soon as the major issues are reached in the negotiations. As soon as the Arabs comprehend that there can be no Arab Law of return and that the security needs of Israel involve the construction of roads under Israeli control that cut into very tiny pieces any Arab autonomous territory, they will have to lower their expectations. The fact is obvious that there can be no territorial contiguity or unity to the proposed Arab state or autonomous territory, nor can Jerusalem be divided.
The collapse of the Oslo process, however, does not necessarily mean war. If Israel has sufficient deterrent power, the Arabs will keep the peace. The introduction of ballistic missiles in the region, as has been done by the Arabs, increases the need for massive deterrent power on Israel’s side. If Israel is strong enough, peace will survive, but every Israeli government will have the constant task of maintaining that high level of deterrent force in order to convince the Arabs of the futility of war.
On the other hand, the failure of the Oslo process should lead to new solutions to the conflict, in the eyes of the Colonel. The two main issues requiring affirmation are the “civil” rights of the Arabs and the security of Israel. Innovative suggestions must be forthcoming to insure that a peace takes those two needs into account and satisfies the requirements of both sides.
That solution cannot, however, satisfy all of the present Arab demands. The full extent of those demands became evident in a symposium held by the Dayan Institute of Tel Aviv University in the late summer of 1994 in which Col. Tsiddon-Chatto participated. At that symposium were to be found all of the prominent Arabs who spanned the entire spectrum of political opinion, from those who were members of the Labor Party to those who were declared supporters of the PLO.
Without exception, those Arabs pointed out that even if a new Arab state were to be created between Jordan and Israel, that would be insufficient because almost a million so-called Israeli Arabs would still ho living under “foreign” domination. The claim of the Arabs was that, if the Jews truly wanted peace, they would have to change the name of the state so as to reflect the entire population rather than merely the Jewish majority. The state, in effect, would have to become a bi-national one with a new flag and a new national anthem.
It would also have to include an Arab law of return to admit all Arabs who supposedly fled from the land as well as their descendants. In other words, the success of the Oslo process means the disappearance of the Jewish State and the end of Zionism, as well as the creation of still another Arab-dominated state.
The very Declaration of Independence that was read at the foundation of modern Israel, which stated that this was to be a Jewish state, would be declared null and void. The 2,000 year-old dream would have ended in complete failure.
This was net merely a demand of the radicals or fundamentalists; it was a demand of all the Arabs who participated in the symposium. Those claims revealed how unrealistic were the expectations of the Arabs which were engendered by Israeli radicals like Yossi Beilin or Yaron Ezrahi.
The most recent events prove that Col. Tsiddon-Chatto was almost prophetic in his predictions. Arafat and the Palestinian (Arab) Authority are fully responsible for the end of the Oslo process. The attempts of Yossi Beilin to conduct a private diplomacy of appeasement to salvage the wreckage are both illegitimate and unwise. President Clinton’s attempt to save his reputation by applying mere pressure on Israel is also ill founded. Either Arafat is responsible for controlling the Arabs, or there can be no autonomous area.
As Col. Tsiddon-Chatto indicates as emphatically, there must be a totally new approach to the process of making peace between Arabs and Israelis, one with much lower expectations, certainly without a new Arab state. There must be a new proposal that may result in true peace between the parties to the dispute.
In a new paper that will hopefully be published in the near future, Col. Tsiddon-Chatto suggested that there can be municipalities enjoying some degree of Arab autonomy within Israel, but that the Arab political rights can only be secured by giving those Arabs in the Holy Land Jordanian citizenship. His arguments are strong ones, but they do require even further lowering of the expectations and goals of the Arabs. Let us hope that these new suggestions are given an adequate examination.