'We are Seriously Concerned About the Fate of the State of Israel':
Yediot Achronot's Interview with Four Israeli Former GSS Directors, p.2

Look What They Did to Us

Ami Ayalon is short-tempered, tense, almost emotional. He came to the meeting with the avowed goal of promoting the document of principles he authored with Sari Nusseibeh. He hopes that the support of three other former GSS directors will have a dramatic effect. One of his achievements from this meeting was the willingness of his colleagues to sign his document. Ayalon's pleasure over this was touching. The truth is that while the signature campaign among the Israeli and Palestinian public figures goes on, the number of signatories is still far from constituting public pressure on the political establishment.

"You know what the paradox is?" he asks. "I go places all day. I meet with thousands of people. In the Katamon neighborhood, in Sderot, in Kiryat Shmona, everywhere in the country. There is no argument over our document. The argument is not over the paper. The argument is over our rights and obligations as citizens. Can we have an effect, is it right for us to have an effect, if our call, our cry, our signature, will do anything? The argument is over what is democracy in Israeli society at the beginning of the 21st century."

"And what you see," says Peri, "is apathy, repression, a lack of desire to think deeply. Look what has been going on over the last three years: there are no demonstrations, no rallies, almost no protest. Those who do bother to come out strongly against the government of Israel or against the leadership, put an ad in the newspaper at their own expense. There is almost nothing organized. Look what they've managed to do to us. And I think that this interview, this historic meeting, can achieve its goal if we use it to appeal to the Israeli public. There is a natural resistance on the part of an incumbent administration to any initiative that it does not make itself. But I think that a government with any self-respect, a leadership with any self-respect, must at last hold a debate on such an initiative. Afterwards it can throw the document away, reject it, say it is unacceptable. But what we have here is complete disregard. This is true for both the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document as well as the Geneva document. I think this is a mistake,
"One thing is clear, and that is without an agreement we are down for the count. And only one thing interests me: how to have a Jewish democratic state here in the Land of Israel.

Carmi Gillon
because there is a desire on the part of the public, there is a new sense of openness. In my opinion, the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document balances, in a more than reasonable way, between what I call 'the national aspirations and identity of Israel as a Jewish democratic state,' and the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. Its drawback is that its implementation is dependent on an anarchist society, and who knows how many years it will take for it to recover. But to come and say that this document or its principles cannot be implemented because of the condition of Palestinian society -- that would be a mistake."

"As of today," says Carmi Gillon, "the only political agenda formally on the table is the road map. The problem is that all of the plans in the last ten years were plans of stages. The stages were created in order to build trust between the sides. And in these ten years, this failed, it didn't work. And that is why I think that the change that Ayalon and Nusseibeh bring, as does Yossi Beilin, is that they are coming and saying: okay, this way failed. We tried it for ten years, and no trust was built. Now, instead of building trust, let us build agreements. This is a different way of tackling the conflict. Instead of trying to build trust and then agreements, we make the agreements now, rather than roll the carpet back and begin to deal with stages until we reach an agreement. As of today, we are preoccupied with preventing terror. Why? Because this is the condition for making political progress. And this is a mistake."

"You are wrong if you think that this is a mistake," says Shalom. "It is not a mistake. It is an excuse. An excuse for doing nothing."

We remind Shalom that Sharon accepted the road map.

"Yes," Gillon answers in Shalom's place, "but he made a condition to the road map, that turned the issue of terror into the be all and end all. You can't see the road map from behind the terror."

"The only person in the Likud who was honest in this matter," says Shalom, "was Yitzhak Shamir. He said: I'll draw the matter out for ten years, and then another ten years."

"One thing is clear," says Gillon, "and that is without an agreement we are down for the count. And only one thing interests me: how to have a Jewish democratic state here in the Land of Israel. And after years in which I believed that we had to move stage by stage, and after we paid the entire territorial price with Egypt and Jordan, and from a strategic and security aspect this only benefited us, then I think that if we don't resolve the present situation and we continue our conflict with the Palestinians, this country will go from bad to worse."

"The question," says Ayalon, "is what do we want. After all, for years, our leaders did not know what to do about the security zone in southern Lebanon. And in the end, we left there for one reason-because the public said: Gentlemen, we are leaving Lebanon and stop driving us crazy. That is why I contend that in the coming years we will comprehend more and more the necessity -- not the desire, but the necessity -- of organizing and creating coalitions from the outside."

"What do you mean," we ask, "popular movements like the Four Mothers?"

"This brew, which was concocted by the Four Mothers," says Ayalon, "is a magic potion. We don't exactly know how to recreate it. I know some of the founders of the movement and I don't know if they planned what they did in detail. If you are asking, is the process of creating a public movement with a clear goal of what it wants to accomplish with the details being left for the political echelon the right thing to do? Then yes, I think this is the correct process."

"That's not what happened with the Four Mothers," says Gillon. "I want to remind you that we left Beirut, we left Lebanon before we left the security zone. There was a political upheaval in Israel that advocated withdrawing from Lebanon, and then Rabin came up with the withdrawal plan."

"This, precisely, was where the GSS had a lot of influence," says Shalom. "We were the first to say that we must leave there back in 1982. We said that it was too big for us, but the army didn't want to hear about it."

"But the possibility of civil war," we ask, "does that not scare you?"

"Very much, " says Shalom. And Gillon says: "But this is the idea and there is nothing else, except for conflict."

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December 2003

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