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Sinai
Photo: Roi Kais
Eitan Haber
We didn't retreat. We gave it up for peace
Op-ed: Just like in Sinai, Israel should discard its tough guy attitude and relinquish what will be handed over anyway. Enough hiding behind such terms as 'disengagement' or 'evacuation'—for could there be a nobler choice than the decision to let go for peace?

A few days before the IDF ended its withdrawal from Sinai in 1982, a unit of reservists soldies (or perhaps it was the act of an individual) raided an IDF stations in Sinai and scrawled: "We did not retreat. We gave it up for peace" in graffiti. The IDF then reliquished control of several important bases, as well as thousands of square kilometers of desert and mountainous terrain.

 

 

The graffiti's writers did not know it, but with those few words they managed to outline a new Israeli policy in the political battle against the Arab countries: We are not retreating, we are giving it up for peace. Perhaps this is the right time to adopt this terminology, instead of presenting ourselves as "the cock of the walk" who can never surrender or lose in battle. We gave it up. We drove 80 kilometers back, we cleared out the entire Sinai Peninsula. Not "disengaged," not "evacuated," heaven forbid, no escape or capitulation—we gave it up.

The Sinai Desert (Photo: Roie Kais)
The Sinai Desert (Photo: Roie Kais)

 

In the new reality of our region the Iranians are approaching the Israeli border in Syria and Lebanon, together with the army of Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon-based Hezbollah, looking toward the liberation of al-Quds (the Arab name for Jerusalem) from the occupation of the "Zionist entity." The struggle against the spread of Iran's hold on Syria and Lebanon is liable to escalate into war—and in recent days we have heard voices that do not rule out this possibility. Another option would be to adopt the principles of the Saudi peace initiative in order to finally reach the negotiations stage, followed by deal with the Palestinians and a solidifying of our relationship with the more moderate Sunni states in the struggle against Iran and its affiliates. From there, we must start the fight, for an agreement or for war, in the battle for Jerusalem, and not leave considerations to the last minute.

 

If we know in advance that we will finally relinquish control of some of the territories in Jerusalem that we annexed in 1967, for example, why bring about the deaths of hundreds of soldiers who might fall in battle over the same neighborhoods and villages? (During the Six-Day War some 180 soldiers were killed in battles fought in the neighborhoods in Jerusalem). The idea here is very simple: give up without a fight what can and should be relinquished, within the framework of an agreement. And before it, Israel must delineate in advance the borders that must be fought or not fought.

 

Should we completely withdraw to Israel's 1967 borders for the price of a peace agreement? The answer is no. There is a limit to the price Israel can afford to pay. Some will say we could have done the same in previous wars, and the answer to this would be—true. But it's not the same now, in that a current deal would grant us the kind of peace agreement that we have had with Egypt for 40 years and with Jordan for 23. Our neighbors do not like us, but when there is quiet on the border, you can live without love.

 

The situation is reminiscent of the joke about a Russian oligarch (or a German or Frenchman or anyone else) who saw a Bedouin in the desert sitting under a tree and enjoying his life, with fruit falling from the tree every so often and him proceeding to eat it. "Go to work, and after you have accumulated money, you can sit peacefully under a tree and eat its fruit," the oligrach teases. "And what am I doing now?" asked the Bedouin. Many of us want to be like the Bedouin—like him, we eat from the fruits of the tree (ie, peace), without paying the price.

 

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