With the assassination of right-wing Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, the cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians is once again on the front burner. In the coming days, neither side of this bitter conflict will be at a loss for rhetoric to explain their positions.
If you are Palestinian, the late Minister Ze’evi represented one of the most racist elements in the Israeli political spectrum. His political worldview called for the forced transfer of Palestinians from their indigenous homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the rest of the Arab world. His death comes after the Israeli cabinet, of which he was part, successfully and openly carried out 60 political assassinations of Palestinians over the past 12 months.
The Palestinians who claimed responsibility for this assassination clearly picked a delicate time for their actions, a time that has the potential to destroy the recent U.S. rapprochement of bringing the two warring sides back to relative stability after one full year of deadly confrontations.
If you are Israeli, the assassination of Minister Ze’evi should come as a rude wake-up call that the arrogance of believing that total security can be sustained while still illegally occupying another people’s land is a falsehood. Minister Ze’evi lived a political life that most Israelis, like all Palestinians, despised. He was for illegal settlements, against the Oslo Peace Process, and worked all his life to put the issue of forceful transfer of Palestinians on the Israeli mainstream agenda. By his appointment to the extremist cabinet of Ariel Sharon, Israelis witnessed the worst of their people leading their country during the worst of times. This was highlighted two days prior to Minister Ze’evi’s death when he submitted his resignation as Minster and stated he would only reconsider if Israel militarily occupied the Palestinian city of Hebron or if his fellow peace-oriented Minister, Shimon Peres, resigned from the cabinet.
Large parts of the Israeli establishment, by using his assassination as the backdrop to make Minister Ze’evi a national hero and to re-occupy part of Palestine, have the same agenda as those who carried out the attack. Both wish to stop the renewed U.S. efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table in a serious fashion with a serious agenda.
Now the limelight is not on the well-tuned propaganda machines of Israelis and Palestinians, but rather on the U.S. administration and its actions in the days to come.
In the days prior to this assassination, the Western world, led by the U.S., was clear. The parties must commit to a ceasefire, come back to the negotiating table, and aim to establish a viable, independent Palestinian State through peaceful means.
If the U.S. rapprochement during the past two weeks is sincere, then it is expected that the objects of the daily cycle of violence will not detract from the U.S.-led peace initiative. The real test of the new era after the September attack on the U.S. is now. The U.S. has an inherent moral, political, and security interest to rise above the daily headlines and create the framework for and oversee implementation of a just peace in the Middle East.
For the U.S. to stop at anything less than an immediate end to the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem and the Israeli recognition of a viable, independent Palestinian State, built on principles and resolutions of International Law, would be to give a gift to the assassins of Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze’evi and would indeed give merit to the warped political agenda of the rightwing Minister himself.