[The following article, published in Maariv on August 23rd, 2006, cannot be ignored. There are two reasons:
1. “Peace Now” is represented on the highest levels of decision making in the Israeli government. Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz and Israel Education Minister Yuli Tamir are both founding, active members of “Peace Now”. Therefore, what we read should be seen as an informal policy statement of the government of Israel.
2. “Peace Now” continues to be funded through the good offices of six European governments, (http://israelvisit.co.il/cgi-bin/friendly.pl?url=Jun-22-06!revelation ), working with an operating budget of 600,000 Euro per annum with an unchanged mandate to influence public opinion to destroy Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. – db]
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Israeli-Syrian conflict, play into the hands of Iran, which seeks to destroy Israel, and serve as fertile ground for expanding the opposition to Israel in the Middle East, in the Arab countries and throughout the entire world.
In the internal Arab arena, Hizbullah and the extremist Islamic elements are using the conflict with the Palestinians and with Syria to justify their actions against Israel, and to unite the Arab world on their side. It is very difficult to convince the world in general, and the Arab world in particular, of the justness of our cause, when in recent years Israel has appeared as an occupying state, which controls some 3.5 million Palestinians and constantly battles against them. The continuation of the occupation undermines Israel’s international legitimacy in the world, and portrays it as the aggressor in the Middle East.
Militarily speaking, the war with the Palestinians strengthens the situation of our enemies from the north and the east. Even before the outbreak of the confrontation in the north, large forces were forced to deal with routine security tasks throughout the West Bank, instead of training and preparing for a violent military clash that could break out at any moment. From a budgetary standpoint as well, the IDF has been forced to invest huge sums in guarding settlements and fighting the Palestinians, at the expense of training and buying equipment for confrontations with Arab states and terror organizations.
Instead of training for fighting the enemy, soldiers of the Armored Corps, Engineering Corps and infantry were compelled to stand for hours at roadblocks in the territories and to run around in the Palestinian villages in search of wanted men.
Moreover, the war in the north exposed the fact that in the Intifada years, the Palestinian terror organizations carefully studied the IDF’s modes of operation, and passed on the information to hostile elements such as Iran and Hizbullah. All these things weakened the IDF’s strength and damaged the army’s readiness for the approaching war.
Within Israeli society, the war in the north proved that even if there are differences of opinion on the necessity of the military operation and the tactics by which it was waged, at the end of the day the national consensus is broader than ever.
When there is no question of controlling another people, establishing settlements and occupying land, the IDF and the government are given full backing from the Israeli public to fight an enemy that seeks to destroy the entire state.
At the conclusion of the warfare in the north, Israeli society must accept the immediate need to quickly move towards peace with Syria and the Palestinians, and to establish a Palestinian state that will live as a neighbor alongside Israel. Resolving the conflict with Syria, ending the occupation and establishing a permanent border between Israel and the Palestinians are a strategic need, which will enable Israel to stand firm against the increasing threats on the part of Iran and the extremist Islamic movements, which seek the destruction of the state.
Only peace agreements with the Palestinians and Syria will succeed in isolating fundamentalist Islam and leading to final and absolute recognition by the Arab world of the State of Israel’s status and right to exist.
In the new reality, peace is neither a privilege nor a luxury. Peace is a strategic asset of the first order, which will enable Israel to face existential dangers. Conversely, the continuation of the confrontation in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the conflict with Syria, will continue to weigh down on Israel’s neck like a millstone, and will damage the state’s military, diplomatic and internal fortitude in the face of existential threats from without.