Last week's statement by Shimon Peres just prior to his inauguration as president of Israel was galling to say the least. For not only did his declaration that "we have to get rid of the territories…" cast grave doubts as to the sincerity of his professed intention to be a "non-partisan national president of all the people," it also made nonsense of his claim that "I changed my position. I haven't changed my opinions and my beliefs."
For in fact, Peres has changed his opinions and his (declared) beliefs dramatically. The question is when he did so…and why.
It was almost a third of a century ago that Peres himself published a chillingly accurate forecast of the grave consequences that were likely to arise, were Israel to embark on the kind of policy it embarked upon in the Oslo agreements, which, it will be recalled, strongly endorsed the idea of "getting rid of the Territories." It was none other than our newly elected president who gave the dire warning that:
"The establishment of such (a Palestinian) state means the inflow of combat-ready Palestinian forces (more than 25,000 men under arms) into Judea and Samaria; this force, together with the local youth, will double itself in a short time. It will not be short of weapons or other (military) equipment, and in a short space of time, an infrastructure for waging war will be set up in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Israel will have problems in preserving day-to-day security, which may drive the country into war, or undermine the morale of its citizens. In time of war, the frontiers of the Palestinian state will constitute an excellent staging point for mobile forces to mount attacks on infrastructure installations vital for Israel’s existence, to impede the freedom of action of the Israeli Air Force in the skies over Israel, and to cause bloodshed among the population...in areas adjacent to the frontier-line."
Shimon Peres, Tomorrow is Now, p. 232.
Grim predictions materialize
And lest anyone protest that quoting opinions from so long ago is inappropriate and is a willful distortion of the truth, here is far more recent excerpt from another book by Peres, published in the same year the Oslo agreements were signed. It clearly reflects the very same concerns expressed almost two decades previously, and warns that:
"Even if the Palestinians agree that their state have no army or weapons, who can guarantee that a Palestinian army would not be mustered later to encamp at the gates of Jerusalem and the approaches to the lowlands? And if the Palestinian state would be unarmed, how would it block terrorist acts perpetrated by extremists, fundamentalists or irredentists?"
Shimon Peres, The New Middle East, p. 169.
These proclamations by Peres, so clearly formulated, so carefully articulated and which so accurately predicted the dangers Israel faces today cannot but bring on a sense of puzzlement and unease in anyone who has genuine concern for the fate of Israel as the Jewish nation-state.
For it is not at all easy to reconcile Peres' former forebodings with his present predilections; to reconcile his rigorous repudiation in the past of the very concept he enthusiastically embraces today - especially in view of the fact that nearly all his grim caveats proved justified.
Of course one is entitled to change one’s mind and it may be contended that Peres simply had a change of mind. However, one cannot but wonder why any rational individual would change his/her mind from a position which in fact proved to be so well-founded to one that in fact proved to be so unfounded?
All of this makes this dramatic shift in Peres’ position – from total opposition to a Palestinian state to total support for it - so perplexing that is difficult to prevent very disturbing questions from pushing themselves into the public consciousness – and from verbalizing themselves in the public discourse. For example:
• What could have possibly induced Peres to endorse a policy which he previously rejected as too perilous to the security of the nation? What induces him to adhere to such a policy after all the perils he predicted did in fact materialize?
• Why would any responsible leader urge his people down a path that he himself warned was disastrous? Why would he insist on keeping to such a path after all the disasters he warned of did indeed occur?
• How can such conduct possibly be reconciled with a genuine concern for the national interest? And if it cannot be so reconciled…what conclusions should be drawn?
The citizens of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole deserve, and indeed should demand, an explanation for this monumental metamorphosis in the positions of one of the most prominent and influential leaders they have had in recent decades. The ramifications of the questions it raises for the fate of the nation-state of the Jews are too far-reaching for them to go unanswered