Are the Palestinians expendable?
This article was written in response to one by the Israeli consul general in Boston.m
More than four years have passed since the signing of the Camp David accords. If things had evolved the way the world expected, we would have had by now a Palestinian entity on the West Bank and Gaza where Palestinians ruled themselves within a federation with Jordan and in peace with Israel. This remains Egypt's goal. It spares no effort for it to be achieved. But ever since the signing of those accords, and subsequently the peace treaty, the extremist elements, both in Israel and among its supporters, have one thing in mind: to find a way to make Israel get away with the de facto annexation of the West Bank and Gaza, against the will of more than 1.4 million Palestinians who live there, and equally important, in spite of the letter and spirit of the Camp David agreements.
Those inside, some of whom had not voted for Camp David, or the peace treaty, led the way to make the evacuation of the Sinai a traumatic event, instead of a ''celebration for peace,'' vowing they would never again allow trading land for peace. They planned, supported, and helped execute policies that emphasized expansion and confrontation - not peace and reconciliation - as the course of the future.
Policies were designed to change the situation on the ground in the occupied territories in a way that would render meaningful negotiations regarding autonomy for the Palestinians useless and were certain to alienate any moderate Arab country from joining the peace process.
The annexation of Arab Jerusalem, the building of the new settlements in the occupied territories, the annexation of the Golan Heights, the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, the heavy-handed policy in the West Bank and Gaza, the delay in evacuating some parts of the Sinai in Taba, the invasion of Lebanon without any provocation, since there was a cease-fire in effect negotiated by Ambassador Habib that was respected for 11 months, and the atrocities that accompanied that invasion - all these are examples of the policies we're talking about.
In the meantime, the extremist elements outside Israel, and especially in the US, embarked on a campaign of misinformation and distortions regarding Egypt and its policies. The formula was simple: Discredit Egypt's commitment to peace, and its adherence to the Camp David accords; then it will be easy to claim that the Arabs cannot be trusted; hence, disregard any attempts to promote peace between Israel and its neighbors that will involve exchanging land for peace, including President Reagan's peace initiative of Sept. 1, 1982.
The prime target in the beginning was to question the ability of Egypt, let alone its commitment to carry out the agreements.
These days the questioning centers on Egypt's alleged abrogation of the treaty by recalling its ambassador, and by allowing an anti-Jewish campaign in its press, and by not encouraging tourism, trade, cultural exchange, etc. The objective is still the same. It is alarming to see members of the Israeli embassy in Washington and Israeli consulate missions around the country get involved in questioning Egypt's sincerity for peace. It is alarming because these representatives know the following facts:
* The Egyptian ambassador was recalled on the 20th of September, four months after the beginning of the invasion and only after the massacres were committed in Sabra and Shatila, and as a minimum reaction to an overwhelming popular demand in Egypt to sever the relations completely. It is important to state here three facts:
1. Recalling an ambassador for consultation is a peaceful demonstration of one country's discontent for the behavior of another, in the context of a normal and peaceful relationship.
2. The peace treaty does not contain any article that obliges Egypt to keep its ambassador in Israel, no matter what Israel does.
3. There is an Egyptian embassy in Israel, executing all the functions of an embassy, and an Israeli ambassador in Cairo executing his duties, along with a consulate general in Alexandria and an Egyptian consulate general in Elat.
* As for the anti-Jewish campaign in the Egyptian press, what has been reported in the Egyptian press after the invasion of Lebanon, and the atrocities that accompanied it, was certainly an expression of discontent with Israel, but never anti-Jewish. What the Egyptian press has reported and commented upon after that invasion was not different in tone or substance from what the American press, or even the Israeli press, has reported or commented on concerning that savage and brutal invasion.
* On the issues of security, trade, tourism, and cultural exchange, you never hear the following:
Egypt sells Israel 16 million tons a year of oil, worth $600 million.
More than 100,000 Israelis visited Egypt, went through its cities and monuments, always with a welcome.
The passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal went uninterrupted since the signing of the peace treaty.
Demilitarized zones, early-warning systems, and multinational forces are in place in the Sinai, according to the agreement, while there were more than 80 violations from the Israeli side in one year alone.
Israel has participated in many international fairs and conferences held in Egypt during the past two years.
In this respect, nothing could be more expressive of the state of relations than a statement by no other than the President of Israel, Chaim Herzog, in a speech at the National Press Club, as late as Nov. 23, 1983, when he said: ''There is a peaceful border in the Sinai, a daily bus service leaves Tel Aviv every morning for Cairo, the Israeli flags adorn the embassy in Cairo, the Egyptian flag flies in Israel. Israelis and Egyptians travel to and around each other's countries.''
Indeed, it is a different tonality from what we hear from those who want to give the impression that peace is being violated and neglected, and it leaves us wondering if it represents the difference of views between those moderates in Israel who believe in peace and are working for it, and those extremists who are embarked on a totally different course.
We, in Egypt, have been advocating moderation and reconciliation among our Arab brothers. A similar effort on the Israeli side will help put the peace process back on track. We have to bear in mind always that Egypt, while repeating its commitment to peace, and its adherence to the documents that it signed, never disavowed its support or its endeavor to regain legitimate Palestinian rights. The main document of the Camp David accords bears witness to this fact. The sooner all those concerned realize the fact that the Palestinians are not expendable for any reason, or under any circumstance, the faster we will be on the road to a comprehensive and durable peace in the Middle East - an objective that can be achieved only if moderation prevails over extremism on both sides of the conflict.