Momentum is slowly building within Israel’s peace camp as Ariel Sharon faces a gradually imploding domestic political predicament along with continued bloody stalemate with the Palestinians. He faces political fundraising scandals and possible criminal proceedings by the State Attorney General that could bring down him and his government.
In the New York Times‘, 4 Israeli Ex-Security Chiefs Denounce Sharon’s Hard Line, these former Shin Bet domestic security chiefs (the equivalent of FBI director) excoriated Sharon’s policies for dealing with the Palestinians and called them a guarantee for endless slaughter. Their views were splashed across the front page of Israel’s leading daily newspaper, Yehiot Achronot:
In a joint interview published Friday, [they] delivered a blistering collective criticism of Israel’s tough military policies toward the Palestinians, saying Israel urgently needed a political solution to the Middle East conflict.
“We are taking sure, steady steps to a place where the state of Israel will no longer be a democracy and a home for the Jewish people,” said Ami Ayalon, the Shin Bet chief from 1996 to 2000.
Yediot ‘s huge front-page headline read: “Four directors of G.S.S. warn: Israel in grave danger.” The four security chiefs ran the agency for nearly two decades. Interviewed, besides Mr. Ayalon, were Carmi Gilon, Yaakov Perry and Avraham Shalom.
They said the government was focused almost entirely on military solutions, at the expense of finding ways to reach a permanent peace deal.
“It is dealing solely with the question of how to prevent the next terrorist attack,” said Mr. Gilon, the Shin Bet chief during the mid-1990’s, in the interview. Israeli leaders are not addressing “the question of how we get out of the mess we find ourselves in today.”
Though they hold no important posts at present, their views are generally respected, based on their years of firsthand experience in dealing with Palestinians, in particular the militant groups.
Other heartening recent developments include Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Yaalon’s admission that the Sharon government’s ‘get tough’ military policies are failing miserably; Ami Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh’s joint peace proposals which have been widely circulated and favorably viewed by both Israelis and Palestinians; and the Geneva Accords, developed by an Israeli team of Labor politicians and a Palestinian team including leaders who’ve worked in past Arafat-led governments.
It will take many more developments like these to move Israeli opinion away from Sharon intransigence and towards a more malleable policy toward the Palestinians. Let’s hope that the momentum continues and is not stopped in its tracks (as it has so many times in the past) by desperate Palestinian militant atrocities against Israeli civilians.