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Tuesday, October 10, 2000
Meretz MK Amnon Rubinstein: Israeli Arabs who think Israel can be destroyed do not appreciate the power of democracy

Ha'aretz 10 October 2000

Anyone who heard and saw the statements by both masked and unmasked men - Israeli Arabs, including Knesset members - about "erasing the Green Line," about a Palestine stretching from the sea to the desert, about the end of the Jewish state (on the pretext of the blood libel that Israel intends to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount), also heard what was between the lines: the reawakening of the new-old hope that Israel can be destroyed as the Crusader kingdom was destroyed, that there is no justification for any national body that is not Muslim-Arab.Meretz MK Amnon Rubinstein: Israeli Arabs who think Israel can be destroyed do not appreciate the power of democracy

Ha'aretz 10 October 2000

Anyone who heard and saw the statements by both masked and unmasked men - Israeli Arabs, including Knesset members - about "erasing the Green Line," about a Palestine stretching from the sea to the desert, about the end of the Jewish state (on the pretext of the blood libel that Israel intends to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount), also heard what was between the lines: the reawakening of the new-old hope that Israel can be destroyed as the Crusader kingdom was destroyed, that there is no justification for any national body that is not Muslim-Arab. It must be noted that such talk was heard even before any Arab citizens of Israel were killed.This renewed hope, which many of us thought had died long ago, is apparently based in part on the following:

+ The unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, which seemed like evidence of Israeli weakness (this also accounts for the open support of Hezbollah)

+ The concessions that Prime Minister Ehud Barak was willing to make to Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat at Camp David and afterward on the issue of Jerusalem as well, which appeared in a false light as Israel's giving in

+ The disagreement and anti-Zionist mood within Israel's divided society

The truth is that Palestinian leaders and the extremists among the Israeli Arab community - the majority rejects, in its passive way, violence and Muslim-Arab racism - are making a great mistake, a mistake that could lead to tragic results for all peoples in the Middle East. The mistake is double: It misinterprets both the nature of Israeli democracy and the willingness to make painful compromises.

It is the nature of democracy to appear weak from without, while being strong from within. Until quite recently the United States seemed to be at a serious low point, and many people predicted the end of the American era: The United States was humiliated in Vietnam, painfully bearing the internal schism that the war created; it submissively accepted the brazen Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; it accepted the capture of hostages and the siege of its embassy in Tehran, and many people believed that it was beginning to slide down a slippery slope, with the Soviet Union standing above it. Suddenly, with no preparation of public opinion, the giant collapsed and the apparent weakling became the sole superpower.

Many have erred in assessing the strength of democratic rule. Experience teaches that democracy is strong in several ways: First of all, a modern economy can flourish only under a regime of freedom and liberty.

Tyranny is the enemy of growth. The Arab world is backward not because it is not talented - Western universities and industry are filled with Arab experts - but because its regimes are tyrannical, corrupt and backward. Israel is in a comfortable position on The Economist's list of emerging economies, and in 23rd place on the UN's development rating. No Arab nation comes anywhere close. Israel's domestic product is greater than that of all of its Arab neighbors.

Second, by nature democratic society is compromising because it must consider all of its components. But when faced with a dead-end, no-choice situation, it gathers together all of its forces in order to win the war. Dictatorial society conceals a deep and wide bitterness, which hurts its ability to achieve total enlistment. The withdrawal from Lebanon and the far-reaching compromises that the prime minister is willing to make are the sign not of weakness that heralds the end, but rather of informed strength, that is prepared for coexistence based on mutual respect.

Israel today is stronger economically and military than it has ever been. This strength stems above all from its democratic rule and freedom of expression. If it wants, the Palestinian leadership can achieve peace with us and learn from our democratic experience. But this leadership will be making a great error if it cannot comprehend both our strength, and the secret of that strength

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