NEW YORK (Jun. 17)
An Israeli reserve officer visiting this country warned yesterday that unless Israel addresses “basic root questions” concerning Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, the war in Lebanon “may go down in history as a vain, meaningless and cruel event.”
The officer – Reserve Col. Mordechai Bar-On — was speaking to an audience of about 250 people, on behalf of the Peace Now movement in Israel. Planned before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon by supporters of the Peace Now movement in New York, the forum was initially designed as a discussion on the future of the West Bank.
Asking whether “a war – any war – can eradicate Indeed a national organization, a national movement,” Bar-On – who has served as chief education officer of the Israel Defense Forces and chairman of the youth department of the World Zionist Organization – contended that no military defeat of the PLO in Lebanon would bring an end to the organization, “let alone the end of Palestinianism as a national sentiment.”
AUTONOMY PLAN CRITICIZED
But he suggested that recognizing what he called “the basic human rights” of the Palestinians to make “the basic decisions of human life” in the West Bank, might open the door to a long term solution that will “give some sort of meaning to the deaths” of the Jews and Arabs who have fallen in Lebanon. In this context, he criticized the autonomy plan as interpreted by Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin who, he said, would either ultimately annex the territories or, more probably, attempt to impose a military regime indefinitely “under the guise of one form of autonomy or another.”
Bar-On acknowledged the absence of a Peace Now equivalent in Palestinian ranks. But he asserted that since “we are the occupiers and they are the occupied,” no such movement can be expected to arise. “Unless we are clear in our readiness to compromise, they have no reason to be moderate,” Bar-On said.
Addressing the question of whether it is prudent to air views abroad in time of war that are inconsistent with the policy of the Israeli Government, Bar-On said that he and other opponents of the government’s policies hesitated at the beginning of the war to speak publicly because of the need for unity during national crises. But he said that since the war has been so protracted, “the time has come now to again say to the Jewish people and the people of Israel: “What is the direction we’re going to take?”
Also speaking at the forum was Prof. Nadav Safran, of the Department of Government at Harvard University, who called for a distinction between the “Palestinian cause” and the “Palestinian leadership as seen in the PLO.” He suggested that some lasting peace could come out of the war in Lebanon if Israel takes the initiative on the Palestinian question, perhaps with the prodding of the U.S.