The exercise of power is determined by thousands of interactions between the world of the powerful and that of the powerless, all the more so because these worlds are never divided by a sharp line: everyone has a small part of himself in both - Vaclav Havel
the darkness surrounding the Middle East peace process, we now see a ray of
light. Since 2009, the United Kingdom has been taking measures, in accordance
with European consumer protection rules, to ensure that settlement products –
goods you might find on your supermarket shelves that have been produced in the
occupied Palestinian territories – are no longer labelled as "made in
After a meeting of
the EU Council of Foreign Ministers last month, several European member states
now appear ready to follow the British initiative. Denmark has already
announced it will do so. Member states also committed to ensure that settlement
products were excluded from preferential treatment under the EU-Israel
Contrary to what you may think, EU member states which take
these measures act in Israel's interest. They do so because they take steps
that defend and reinforce the Green Line, the pre-1967 border between Israel
and the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Green Line is of decisive importance to achieving Middle
East peace. It is the line that was drawn in green pencil on the maps that were
on the table at the time of the cease-fire agreements between Israel and the
Arab states, signed in 1949. Regrettably, this line survived only until the
During this war, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Ever since, efforts of consecutive Israeli governments to blur this line and,
ultimately, to erase it have not ceased. The Green Line has disappeared from
the official maps of the State of Israel. Schools were even prohibited from
presenting it in educational materials.
The large-scale and expansionist settlement enterprise erodes
the Green Line every day. Residential communities, now housing more than
500,000 settlers, were established within occupied Palestinian territory in
order to make us forget the Green Line's existence and prevent the
establishment of an independent Palestinian state. It should long have been
clear to every Israeli that anything located inside the Green Line is the
democratic, legal, normative Israel, and anything beyond the line is something
else: undemocratic, illegal, not normative. Not ours.
But the Israeli people's eyes are blind, their ears are deaf and
their leaders are flaccid and weak. This is precisely the situation in which
civilised societies urgently need feedback and intervention from the outside:
to mirror the absurdity of the situation created and to focus attention on the
damage of human and political blindness. To tell Israel that it is impossible
to be treated as "the only democracy in the Middle East", while it is
also the last colonial occupier in the Western world.
It is not anti-Semitic and not anti-Israel to convey these
messages. On the contrary: the settlers, the conquerors and their political
allies – including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel – are the
real enemies of Israel's future.
Indeed, anyone who wants to erase the pre-1967 border is
essentially asking to erase the basic values on which the State of Israel was established:
democracy, equality, the rule of law, secularism and modernity. Colonising
Palestinian land across the Green Line goes in the opposite direction: it
generates fanatic, nationalistic, fundamentalist and anti-democratic energies
that threaten all civilised Israeli foundations.
I have decided to not buy any product that comes from the
settlements. I do not cross the Green Line, not to promote public causes and
not for family events. Because everything happening across the Green Line is
the dark alter ego of Israel. Its hidden personality is manifest there. Evil,
aggressive and impenetrable. This personality threatens to take over the good
and humane parts of the legitimate Israel. With international help, we must
return these demons to their bottles, or rather to those positive domains for
which this state was established.
Preventing the mislabelling of settlement products as "made
in Israel" and blocking their preferential entry into the EU seems a
symbolic and minor step. However, in the present circumstances, it is a giant
leap for Middle East peace, which seems more remote than ever.
Contrary to what you may be told, this is not a sweeping boycott
of Israel, but a subtle and moral distinction that marks the difference between
Israel's great potential and its destructive capabilities.
If, God forbid, the Green Line will be permanently erased, from
consciousness and from the ground, then Israel will also be erased. The
struggle for the preservation of the Green Line is the struggle for Israel.
Anyone who defends and reinforces it is a friend of Israel and keeps hope
Avraham Burg was Speaker of the
Knesset (1999-2003) and Chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist
In early June 1967, as I cowered with
my mother and sisters in the "safest" room of our house nearJerusalem—
the downstairs bathroom — we feared the worst. None of us imagined that the war
that had just begun would end in six days. It was inconceivable that the
Israeli army would destroy three Arab armies, kill upward of 15,000 Arab
soldiers (at a cost of 700 Israeli casualties), triple the size of the state ofIsraeland,
for the first time in two millenniums, give the Jewish people control over the
entire land of Israel, including the crown jewel, the Old City of Jerusalem.
Many believe now, as they believed then, that Israel was forced to initiate a
preemptive strike in 1967 because it faced an existential threat from Arab
armies that were ready — and intending — to destroy it. As it happens, my
father, Gen. Matti Peled, who was the Israel Defense Forces' chief of logistics
at the time, was one of the few who knew that was not so. In an article
published six years later in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, he wrote of Egypt's
president, who commanded the biggest of the Arab armies: "I was surprised
that Nasser decided to place his troops so close to our border because this
allowed us to strike and destroy them at any time we wished to do so, and there
was not a single knowledgeable person who did not see that. From a military
standpoint, it was not the IDF that was in danger when the Egyptian army
amassed troops on the Israeli border, but the Egyptian army." In
interviews over the years, other generals who served at that time confirmed
this, includingAriel Sharonand
In 1967, as today, the two power centers in Israel were the IDF high command
and the Cabinet. On June 2, 1967, the two groups met at IDF headquarters. The
military hosts greeted the generally cautious and dovish prime minister, Levi
Eshkol, with such a level of belligerence that the meeting was later commonly
called "the Generals' Coup."
The transcripts of that meeting, which I found in the Israeli army archives,
reveal that the generals made it clear to Eshkol that the Egyptians would need
18 months to two years before they would be ready for a full-scale war, and
therefore this was the time for a preemptive strike. My father told Eshkol:
"Nasser is advancing an ill-prepared army because he is counting on the
Cabinet being hesitant. Your hesitation is working in his advantage." The
prime minister parried this criticism, saying, "The Cabinet must also
think of the wives and mothers who will become bereaved."
Throughout the meeting, there was no mention of a threat but rather of an
"opportunity" that was there, to be seized.
Within short order, the Cabinet succumbed to the pressure of the army, and the
rest, as they say, is history. The Six-Day War began three days later and was
over on June 10, 1967. When the guns fell silent, one general saw yet another
opportunity, one that would take most of Israel's other leaders some decades to
recognize. This was my father. A 1995 newspaper profile reconstructed the first
weekly meeting that the IDF general staff held after the war. When it came his
turn to speak, my father said: "For the first time in Israel's history, we
have an opportunity to solve the Palestinian problem once and for all. Now we
are face to face with the Palestinians, without other Arab countries dividing
us. Now we have a chance to offer the Palestinians a state of their own."
His position was well known. He argued in 1969 that holding on to the territory
gained in the war was contrary to Israel's interests: "If we keep these
lands, popular resistance to the occupation is sure to arise, and Israel's army
will be used to quell that resistance, with disastrous and demoralizing results."
Over the years, he argued repeatedly that Israeli control in the West Bank and
Gaza would turn the Jewish state into an increasingly brutal occupying power
(he was right) and could eventually result in a binational state (he may yet be
right, as events are moving in this direction). Allowing the Palestinians an
independent state of their own, he maintained, would lead to stability and
For 45 years, successive Israeli governments have invested billions of dollars
in making the 1967 conquests irreversible, and they have eliminated any chance
for the two-state solution to become a reality. Cities, highways, malls and
factories have been built in the West Bank in order to settle Jewish Israelis
there, while a reign of terror was put in place to govern the Palestinians
whose lands were being taken. From denying access to water and land and
obstructing free travel, through a maze of discriminatory laws and
restrictions, to full-on military assaults, Israel has dedicated huge resources
to the oppression and persecution of the Palestinians.
Now once again Israel is faced with two options: Continue to exist as a Jewish
state while controlling the Palestinians through military force and racist
laws, or undertake a deep transformation into a real democracy where Israelis
and Palestinians live as equals in a shared state, their shared homeland. For
Israelis and Palestinians alike, the latter path promises a bright future.
Miko Peled is an Israeli activist living in San Diego and the author of the
recently published book, "The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli inPalestine."