2001 Australia-Israel Hawke Lecture

Delivered by Mr Ehud Ya’ari
17 July 2001
Presented in association with the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce (SA/NT)

Ehuh Ya'ariEhud Ya’ari

An outstanding international journalist and much sought after commentator, Ya’ari has been head of the Middle East department of Israel Television for more than 20 years, and a regular correspondent on Mabat, the nightly newscast. He is also associate editor of The Jerusalem Report, and an associate of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. During the last 25 years Ya'ari has interviewed scores of personalities including: President Clinton, President Mubarak, the late President Sadat, Chairman Arafat, and the Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouk al-Shara. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic Monthly. He is the winnner of a number of industry awards and is the author of seven books, including The Year of the Dove and Peace by Piece.

Liz Ho:

I am Liz Ho, Director of the Hawke Centre at the University of South Australia and I would like to warmly welcome all of you here this evening. Before we commence, I would like to acknowledge the following special guests. Mr Bruno Krumins, Lieutenant Governor of South Australia, Councillor Greg Mackie representing the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Mr Michael Ronen, Minister Councillor of the Embassy of Israel, Mr Allen Bolaffi, Chair of the Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce, Professor Lowitja O'Donoghue, our esteemed patron of the Hawke Centre, Professors Michael Rowan and Eleanor Ramsay of the University of South Australia, Greg Keeley, Executive Director of Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce and finally the chair of our centre and a very special person, Dr Basil Hetzel.

Adelaide has been thinking very deeply in the past week, we have had the marvellous Festival of Ideas. I would like to think of the Hawke Centre as a centre that will allow ideas to flow year round but we were very proud to be associated with the Festival and I pay special tribute to Greg Mackie who does such a fine job and who is here tonight. I think while we tend to be known as the Festival City, we can also lay claim to being a place of social invention and experiment where public learning and debate are very high on our agenda so it is no surprise that a combination of a festival and ideas went down so well in Adelaide over the weekend.

I think our interest in both the external problems of the world and also the solutions and, indeed, what we can learn out of those for our own society is something that intensely involves all of us in one way or another and that is one reason why we are all here this evening. So we are very delighted to be joining with the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce in presenting this inaugural Australia Israel Hawke lecture.

The Hawke Centre began its life in 1997 when Bob Hawke, who just made it as a South Australian, born in Bordertown in 1929 and our only South Australian Prime Minister, became part of the University through the naming of this project. We are primarily dedicated to the strengthening of democracy and citizenship.

By contrast, the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce has been in existence for much longer, over 25 years and is dedicated to extending trade between Australia and the Middle East and increasing the level of exports of South Australian products but I point, in particular, to this happy marriage between education, learning, public involvement and business tonight. I think this is a very important collaboration.

I am now going to introduce the Honourable Dr Basil Hetzel who will in turn introduce our very special guest this evening and our speaker, Mr Ehud Ya'ari who has the good taste to be married to an Australian and who has travelled many, many miles to be here with us tonight.

So to Dr Hetzel. Dr Hetzel is Chair of the Hawke Centre project at the University. He is the recipient of the 1997 Anzac Peace Prize and is a former Chancellor of the University. He has had a very distinguished medical career. In 1971 he gave the Boyer Lectures on the ABC on Life and Health in Australia. Dr Hetzel has been involved, at the very highest level, in the prevention of iodine deficiency world-wide. He has put an enormous amount of effort and time into what has been a very important medical breakthrough and in making sure that people can live reasonable lives all over the world, people might otherwise not have been able to.

So we are very proud that we have a South Australian who has not only been an Executive Director of the International Council for the Control of Iodine Disorders but also the world Chair. Dr Hetzel was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1990 and upon his retirement as Lieutenant Governor of South Australia in 2000 Her Majesty the Queen conferred the title “The Honourable” upon Dr Hetzel. I think we are not only proud to hear about Dr Hetzel's contribution to South Australia through that very brief introduction, but also very proud of his humanity and his association with the centre is something that we feel is an extra boon to the work that we do. So without further statement, let me introduce Dr Hetzel. Thank you.

Hon Dr Basil Hetzel, AC

Welcome to you all. We are very pleased to be collaborating with the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in this event. Delighted to see my successor, Mr Bruno Krumins here, as Lieutenant Governor and Councillor Greg Mackie, I would also like to add my congratulations on the Festival of Ideas, Mr Michael Ronen, Mr Allen Bolaffi, who is Chair of the Australian Israeli Chamber and one of our graduates from the University of South Australia of whom we are very proud, Professor Lowitja O'Donoghue, the members of the Australia Israel Chamber, ladies and gentlemen.

As Chair of the Centre I am very pleased to welcome all of you and this is, indeed, the inaugural Australia Israeli Hawke Lecture. A further word about the Centre, it is a dynamic initiative which is a centre for public learning and, I think, contributes very important new functions that we now need so much. Particular themes are strengthening democracy, valuing our diversity and building the future.

As many of you will know, we have an annual Hawke Lecture in Adelaide, the first one delivered by Mr Bob Hawke himself, the second by Sir Zelman Cowen and the third by Dr Ramphele from the World Bank, a very notable event in the Town Hall last year. This year the lecture will be given by my esteemed colleague, Sir Gustav Nossal, who will be examining the impact of science on human welfare and the future.

Let me just say a few words about the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce which is co-sponsor of this event. The Chamber is to be commended for its energy. Many of you will know well of its very energetic office-bearers and very active program, not only concerned with business but with the wider cultural and international agenda and this is, of course, the setting for this lecture tonight.

There have been a series of trade and education delegations to Israel and other countries supporting South Australian interests and the University of South Australia has been pleased to participate in some of these delegations.

We are very pleased that Mr Hawke has become a patron of the Chamber through the association with the Hawke Centre. So thank you, Allen, for the support you have given with your colleagues. We value the association very much. Now, I come to my main purpose which is to introduce our distinguished and honoured guest and speaker, Mr Ehud Ya'ari.

When we were aware that Ehud was a possibility to deliver this lecture we were very pleased indeed. The University's Division of Education Arts and Social Sciences includes undergraduate and post-graduate programs in journalism and in this instance we have the opportunity to hear from an international professional journalist who is very much expert in his field with a very big international reputation and we appreciate the opportunity to hear from Ehud on this occasion giving a personal perspective on one of the great conflict issues of our time.

The title of his address is: From Peace to Armistice, the turbulent road towards a new architecture in the Middle East. A few words about Ehud Ya'ari. He has been a head of the Middle East Department of Israeli television for more than 20 years, a regular correspondent on Mabat, the nightly newscast. He is Associate Editor of the Jerusalem Report and an Associate of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. During the last 25 years he has interviewed scores of personalities including President Clinton, President Mubarak, the late President Sadat, Chairman Arafat and Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouk al-Shara.

His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Atlantic Monthly. He is a winner of a number of industry awards, notably the Sokolov Prize for his coverage of the Lebanon War and the Israel Broadcasting Award for the coverage of the Gulf War. He is also the author of seven books including The Year of the Dove and Peace by Piece. I need say no more, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Ehud Ya'ari.

Ehud Ya’ari:

Good evening. It is not just an honour but also a pleasure to be here and be invited to speak to such a distinguished audience. I will try to offer some thoughts on the current situation in the region from which I am coming to you and I have to emphasise right away that I do not represent any Israeli government, agency, body, not even my own television station and very often I myself am not in full agreement with whatever I am going to tell you, so please take me with more than a grain of salt.

I think, coming to the crux of the matter, I would say the following. I think it is obvious to everybody, that we have not landed on the golden beaches of a bright new Middle East as was promised to us, amongst others, by our present Foreign Minister, Mr Peres. There is no new Middle East 10 years after the peace process took off in the Madrid peace conference following the Gulf War, the second Gulf War. There is no new Middle East around us. There are no golden beaches of prosperity, reconciliation and everlasting love between the nations of the region.

What we have is what we had all along, the old mud list with all its pains and agonies and I am afraid that we have to reach the conclusion that it is not going to change any time soon, not in my lifetime, at least.

Which means that we have reached a point where our politicians are called upon to adopt much more realistic, if you want, cynical approach to what is possible and what is impossible in the region in our pursuit for some sort of regional stability, mainly foremost between Israel and its Arab neighbours and, of course, the Palestinians come first on the list.

The window of opportunity, as Jim Baker called it immediately after the Gulf War, the window of opportunity for peace in the Middle East maybe still open but the curtains are down. What seemed very possible or very likely just a year or so ago is by now absolutely impossible. There are two contradictions at the basis of the process which have derailed it from the prescribed course. One of them is the following. We offer, both us and the Arabs, we offer each other an embrace. An embrace of friendship, reconciliation, agreement, down the road, possibly also very close collaboration and co-operation, but the truth of the matter is that we are offering to embrace each other only in order to turn our backs on each other at the same moment, each going his own way.

There is enormous tension generated in this contradictory movement, the embrace on the one hand and the turning of the back, going your way at the same time, on the other hand. Anyone who is trying to stand in front of the mirror in the morning, trying to hug his image, his reflection in the mirror and turn his back on it at the same time will find that even if he is physically very fit, it is quite impossible.

Politically, in geo-strategic terms, we would like to believe that this contradictory movement is possible. That is that we can make peace, and part, at the same time because the process is not about - it is not a marriage of Israel into the region. Nobody wants us there. Nobody wants us there. The process is about a divorce.

How to reach a point of civilised divorce between Israel and its adversaries so that each can go his own way, and it is the worst type of divorce because in our case, divorce means that once you are, as we have a song in Hebrew, dancing on the steps of the rabinate with your divorce papers all signed and ready, you are doomed to spend the rest of your life with your ex-spouse forever in the same bedroom. This is, in my opinion, the best description of the difficulty and the complexity of peacemaking in the Middle East.

We and the Palestinians are not living next to each other. We are not next door neighbours. Most parts of the land we are living in mixed with each other and separation is impossible even if a political deal is possible, I believe. Therefore, to use a very simple example, when we reach divorce, we will stop fighting in the double bed and we will be able to switch into two separate beds but still in the same room. A degree of conflict, some degree of tension, is going to stay with us even post this.

The other source of tension in the process emanates from the fact that basically what we are saying to the Palestinians, we Israelis, is the following - I am putting it bluntly, intentionally, in my language. We are saying to Chairman Arafat, yes, you will have an independent Palestinian state but - or as Barak offered to him in Camp David, which will be almost 100 per cent of the territory that you have demanded - but we say to him, when the Palestinian movement, with you as its leader, will be, will develop maximum speed, at the moment when your great ambition will be fulfilled and the orchestra with 80 drums and 600 trombones, whatever, will play the Palestinian national anthem on Temple Mount and you will all feel that the winds of history, you Palestinians will feel that the winds of history are blowing in your sails, that will be the moment that you will commit yourself to stop and ask for no more. That's the deal.

Who can do that? This, in political terms, is what is being asked from Mr Arafat because from an Israeli point of view there is no sense in a deal if it does not amount to the termination of the conflict, end of conflict. From Mr Arafat's point of view and many of his people, not all of them, this amounts to an admission that they will have to settle, after over a century of conflict with the Jewish Community and then with the State of Israel, for a territory which will spread over about a fifth, 20 per cent, of the territory initially in contest west of the River Jordan between the river and the sea. A territory which will be able to accommodate, at best, two-fifths, 40 per cent of all those who consider themselves members of the Palestinian people.

This is the deal that everybody is talking about. There is no other deal. I am just trying to illustrate how difficult it is. The architecture of peacemaking in the region ever since Madrid, or if you want to go back ever since the old days of President Sadat's peace initiative back in the late 70s, was based on the assumption that Israel can strike different types of deals with its neighbours which will all go under the marketing name ‘peace’ but effectively will be something different and will be eventually crowned with the historic deal with the Palestinians.

The major feature of all those agreements is, of course, mutual recognition, a commitment not to resort to violence and most importantly an element of demilitarisation all around Israel. So take, for example, the deal with Egypt, our peace treaty with Egypt was signed back in 1979. With Egypt we have the whole Sinai Peninsula effectively demilitarised with two battalions of American Marines there, sometimes there were also Australian pilots monitoring traffic across the Suez Canal.

We have a desert of 250 kilometres separating the Israeli Army from the Egyptian Army. We don't have real peace with Egypt, it is rather a cold war or at best a cold peace but who cares, in both cases the armies don't fight each other and we have, basically, stability and quiet along the Israei-Egyptian border ever since Sadat.

Jordan, in its peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has turned itself, willingly, under the late King Hussein, effectively into a demilitarised entity as a buffer down the road, hopefully also as a bridge, between Israel and the forces, the strong powers to the east, Iraq and Iran. According to the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, Jordan does not allow any foreign troops into its territory. Namely, no expeditionary Iraqi force can enter Jordan, or Syria or Saudi. Jordan, with its small army, four divisions only, does not constitute a military threat to Israel so Jordan is the other element of demilitarisation.

With Syria, the deal that was being discussed also contained an important segment of demilitarisation between the Israeli border after we ceded the Golan Heights back to Syria all the way up to the outskirts of Damascus and Lebanon. Lebanon is a country without an army and a peace treaty with Lebanon, whenever it comes, I am sure will also provide for preventing entry of foreign troops there.

That was the scheme since Madrid, basically. A scheme which was designed to allow Israel go its own way protected by peace treaties and strips of demilitarisation and the Arabs to go their own way. The element missing was Arafat, was the Palestinians and I am coming to that. Initially, strategically the logic was that Israel has to nail Syria, to get a peace treaty with Syria before you move to the final crucial ground, a round of negotiations with the Palestinians. To put it very bluntly, to isolate Arafat for the last round and have all the Arabs around Israel already locked in peace with us.

Every single Israeli Prime Minister tried to get a deal with Syria at the price of giving back the Golan Heights. Every single Israeli Prime Minister. All of them failed. Each in his own way because, at the end of the day, the Syrian answer was ‘no’. Today, young Mr Asad, the new President, is going beyond what his late father use to say and he is saying I'm not concluding anything ahead of the Palestinians. This was the first important set back of that turbulent road from the Gulf War towards some sort of regional peaceful arrangement.

Syria said ‘no’, although Israel was offering to pay the full territorial price. Why did Syria choose, and still does, to reject the offer? It is a matter for interpretation. Everybody has his own reading. President Clinton's impression, out of his last meeting with President Asad, the father, in Geneva, was that he chose to concentrate on consolidating the regime at home rather than embark upon an experiment of opening up and following peace with Israel but there are other interpretations as well.

Once we were unable, it is we, Israel, the Egyptians, who are partners in this throughout, the Americans and some of the Europeans, not the French, of course, once we failed in bringing Syria to the table and signing the peace treaty with Syria, the game on the Palestinian front has changed dramatically. Now, from the outset, Arafat's strategy - maybe I have to say something here within brackets - I was the first biographer of Arafat over 30 years ago. I've invested, if you want, a lifetime in him and he is making jokes that he did whatever he did and I was trying to make some money writing about it, which is basically correct but I'm saying that in order to ask you to take seriously what I have to say about Arafat, not that necessarily that I am right but I made the effort, over many years. I met him just before I came here. We had a lot chat and then an early lunch at 2 am in the morning, that's the way it works. Arafat's strategy, ever since the Oslo Accord was contrary to the strategy of the Israeli architects of the agreement. What was the Israeli logic and the philosophy behind Oslo? If you ask Mr Peres, the philosophy was we go into a phase out process of gradual Israeli withdrawal from the territories, we will build an impressive degree of goodwill and co-operation and mutual trust so that after 5 year or 7 years - it was stipulated 5 years, after 5 years we will be able to tackle together the major outstanding issues, Jerusalem, refugees, borders, independence, etcetera, etcetera.

The idea was we put the PLO, headed by Mr Arafat, through the experiment and at the end of the day the PLO and Mr Arafat are going to be transformed into something else and they will be converted into a compromise situation. It did not happen, as everybody can see and it did not happen, amongst other things, because Mr Arafat's strategy from day one was not to allow it to happen. His strategy from day one was to maintain a policy in which you keep offering, on the one hand, negotiations, ‘peace of the brave’, different degrees of co-operation and security and combating terrorism, with a limit, and at the same time maintain fluctuating degrees of violence throughout.

This is what we had ever since he and the seven brigades of the PLO were allowed into the country, into Palestinian territories in '94 following the Oslo Accords. The Oslo Accords, therefore, were basically dead for a few years now and I am saying that the corpse of the Oslo Accord was lying in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza and the cities of Israel for many years and the stench was there and the only reason it was not buried was because the two parties could not agree what should be written on the tombstone of the Oslo Accords.

Then came Prime Minister Barak. Failed again in his attempt to drag Syria into the honey-trap of peace and made the move. The move was intended to make - to force Arafat to choose and give an answer. An answer to a very simple question. The question being: What do you want in return for peace?

Barak said to Arafat, very simply, he said to him: If you are willing to give us a political statement on the end of the conflict. A legal statement, document, on the end of all claims by the Palestinians against Israel and you agree to go together with me, Barak, to the Security Council to announce together all existing UN Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions in the Middle East asking the Security Council to adopt our new agreement on the end of the conflict as its only binding resolution. If you agree to all that, said Barak to Arafat in my language, then I, Barak, am prepared to give you more than the extreme Israeli left wingers ever contemplated. I will give you the territories, I will give you the Jordan Valley, which was historically intended to serve as the buffer between Jordan and the Palestinian State so that Jordan will not be overtaken by the Palestinians and Jordan is strategically a key to Israel's posture in the region and I will give you, said Barak, not just an entry visa but a resident visa in Jerusalem and on top of it, Temple Mount. The most sacred place to the Jewish people.

I will give you, he said to him, sovereign custodianship over Temple Mount. 96 per cent of the territory, and it was still open for negotiation, and about 2 per cent of the territorial compensation somewhere else for those settlements around Jerusalem that will be annexed to Israel, very close to 100 per cent. If not, said Barak to Arafat, you get nothing. It is end of conflict or nothing. Arafat said ‘no’. He said ‘no’ in Camp David, he said ‘no’ in the negotiations which were conducted after Camp David, all the way up to the Israeli elections in which Barak, of course, lost.

I remember saying to Barak all along, if Arafat has to choose between a grand peace and a Likud right-wing government in Israel, Arafat has already chosen, it's me and my wife and my friends who will have to go to the ballot box for him because from Arafat’s point of view, one has to understand, he sees himself as a man who is about the Palestinian cause, not that much about the Palestinian people, what happens today, tomorrow, yesterday is much less important to him than the dedication to the long-term objective.

Second, yes, Arafat would very much like to get a deal with Israel. A deal with Israel means a lot more territory, territorial continuity, international recognition, etcetera, etcetera, but not at the price of becoming, as he sees it, the undertaker of basic Palestinian rights. Now, what is that? Now, we know that he is speaking about an effort to flood Israel with, you chose the number, of Palestinian refugees and basically take over the country demographically. In Camp David - I could go into the anecdote but I don't think it is interesting now - in Camp David, for example, one of his lieutenants said: Give me a six digit number for refugees to be relocated into Israel proper after withdrawal. Small Israel, with a waistline of only 13 kilometres and one of the Israelis with Barak said to him: Okay, 100,000 refugees over 3 years. And the answer came immediately: no, no, sorry, a seven digit number.

This is unacceptable to any Israeli Government. I don't know any faction, under the political map of Israel, which is willing to contemplate such a deal. It basically means the destruction of the State. Therefore the move came and into the cycle, a new round of violence. I would say a few quick words about the present intifada, it is called - it's not an intifada, intifada is what we had in the late 80s, it was a spontaneous eruption, popular eruption of people and Arafat was far away in Tunis. What we have now is a move by the leader to ignite violence through his own means with full control over what is happening, full control.

Arafat has basically done the following. He has taken his own structure of power, which is the Palestinian Authority, established by the Oslo Accord, funded through the mechanism of the Oslo Accord and got its security organs, 14 of them, got their weapons through the mechanism of Oslo. The Israeli Army, by the way, took the number of every rifle that they got. So the Palestinian Authority, with its security and military organs, represented Oslo and was a product of Oslo, and was suppose to serve as his main structure of power, of Government.

Here is a leader who is undermining his own Government, clipping its wings, ordering his police, his military, ordering his soldiers to stay out of it. Basically telling them to allow the emergence of a chaotic order in the territories, maintaining only two services, by the way, the education system and medical services. Other than that, the Palestinian Authority has ceased to exist long ago. If you want to go visit one of the Ministries in Ramallah or Gaza, the door is open and you can come in but you won't find anybody there.

It was very strange for many Israelis and certainly observers from the outside, to understand a leader who is basically undermining his own structure of power but he did it, much in the same way on a different scale, that Mao did it during the Cultural Revolution in China and at the same time, allowed the emergence of a parallel, not alternative structure.

A parallel structure that he has been preparing ever since day one that he came back to Gaza. This is the combination of the party militia - the Fatah or what is called sometimes in the press Tanzim - Tanzim means organisation in Arabic - his own party militia in alliance with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the organisations, which have rejected Oslo from the outset, representing, in its very existence, this alliance, a violation of Oslo. According to Oslo they should not be there with arms at all. They are representing something which I would call revolutionary legitimacy.

As opposed and rival and competitive to the legal authority inherited from the Oslo Accords. By allowing this to rival branches of power, his power. Sometimes to fight it out in the street, a degree - a volume of violence was introduced which is still with us now 10 months later. Why did he have to do that? It was very important for Arafat from very early on not to allow an impression to be formed that here is the Palestinian Authority, lead by himself, declaring war on the State of Israel or challenging the State of Israel. He does not want, cannot afford, a direct all out open confrontation with the State of Israel. There are different rules to this kind of game. He had to make sure that he, willingly, consciously gives up a degree of control so that some of the other armed groups can take the lead and trigger the violence that we have seen so far.

What is the objective? The objective being forcing Israel to accept a deal which will allow the establishment of a Palestinian State which is, from the outset, hostile or at the very least unfriendly to the State of Israel. It is basically the Palestinians are asking us today to give up the territory, the same territories that were offered to them by Barak for peace, to give up those territories for no political, for no diplomatic gain whatsoever. That is the formula. I don't know of any other formula that has been offered by Arafat.

Israel will not accept it, whether it is a right-wing Government, National Unity Government or left-wing Government. After 10 months it seems that this type of special war is not going very well for Mr Arafat, I would say. By the way, this is his own impression. They feel that the intifada is in the red. They are right. Why? Because they were unable to drag the rest of the Arab world to do war with Israel. President Mubarak of Egypt, that is the country that counts, went one day on television, the morning show, Good Morning Egypt, and he said the following said: Egypt will allow no one”, (read Arafat), Egypt will allow no one to fight to the last Egyptian soldier.

When asked later on, in the Gulf, how come you are interfering in Palestinian decision making, he said: I am speaking on behalf of 50,000 graves of Egyptian soldiers who gave their lives for Palestine ever since 1948. Egypt said ‘no’ and basically said to Arafat: we are not going to allow you to drag us in. Jordan said the same. Syria, in spite of its very hostile posture towards Israel and toward Arafat, also said the same and the instruction to Hezbollah in Lebanon is: you can operate - you can mount operations against the Israelis here and there, not too much, not too provocative, don't get us into an all out war.

So the Arabs didn't come but my argument is the Palestinians didn't come either and this intifada is lacking, throughout, is lacking in popular dimension. What we have is squads of people belonging to such organs as the presidential guard of Arafat, 417, doing ambushes, planting bombs, sending suicide bombers, other groups like this but it is restricted to squads. It is not a popular mass phenomena as we have seen in the late 80s. The Palestinian countryside is quiet, 400 villages in the West Bank which were the backbone of the first intifada, they are not there.

Palestinian upper middle class are sending money and children out. Jordan had to take measures to kerb the flow of Palestinians from the West Bank back into the East Bank. They have a Palestinian majority, as it is. Jerusalem, 200,000 Arabs, Palestinians, no intifada in Jerusalem, not for one day. Arafat's own adviser wrote an article, some time ago under the title: Where are the students? Because this is supposedly a popular revolution in which the student body is absent. They are in the classrooms, sometimes in the laboratories making - trying to make bombs too, but by and large they are out of it.

So what I am saying is the Arabs didn't come and the majority of the Palestinian population, unlike what we have seen in the previous round over 10 years ago, is willing to express solidarity with the intifada, support the moves of Arafat, whatever you want, but not to take and participate. This distinction is very important. Through this process what is emerging is, I believe, a situation in which the dream which was also our dream, Israelis, it is our interest to have a strong solid, friendly Palestinian State.

What is happening is that the notion, the concept that there can be a Palestinian State under strong central management is becoming obsolete. Through the violent events of the past year what is emerging is a system that I call, half jokingly, the United Palestinian Emirates. A system of fiefdoms of regions each controlled by a different combination of warlords under the general direction of Chairman Arafat but what happens the morning after Arafat? This is the new reality that we are faced with in the near future.

I would conclude by saying that it may be that Chairman Arafat who has forced other leaders before to expel him from their territory will force Israel, whoever is the Prime Minister, to take the same move. I remind you that Arafat got himself expelled from Jordan in late September 1970 challenging the late King Hussein. He got himself expelled from Beirut after he got the Lebanese Christians so desperate that they came to seek Israel's support to go all the way to Beirut. He got himself expelled from Northern Lebanon, from Tripoli, and by the Syrian Army. He got the Palestinian community, the single and most important and affluent Palestinian community in the world, the one in Kuwait, he got them all expelled because he supported Sadam in the Gulf War. No one can exclude the possibility that he will force our hand to take the action that Israel basically does not have an interest to take, to expel him and the armed forces of the PLO out of the territories into which they were allowed according to the Oslo Accords.

If he does that, I think we will find that Israel was facing a situation in which it really didn't have a choice, but hoping that he does not create such circumstances, I do believe that we are approaching a situation in which it will be possible to obtain a sort of an armistice, an armistice that is a deal which is more than a simple basic cease fire, less than a peace treaty but has very strong political and territorial dimensions. The kind of agreement which would be, I believe, very similar to the armistice agreement concluded between Israel and its Arab neighbours following the War of Independence - our War of Independence in 1948-49.

The only leader on the other side of the fence who can probably still conclude such an armistice with us would be Mr Arafat. Then the formula would be less for less, less than Barak has offered him in Camp David, for less than Arafat was required to give in Camp David. If you go through the region’s newspapers you will see that there are earlier ideas popping up and the exact nature of such formula of less for less. It is my prediction, although I once had a very clever art professor, who always used to say to me: Ehud, never make predictions about the Middle East, especially when it has to do with the future.

So in spite of this good advice, I would say that I think that the present conflict is running out of steam and there is no case in the history of the conflict between us and the Palestinians over the past 100 years or so in which the conflict could sustain itself for more than a year or so. We are already at the tenth month. I believe a little more time and we will be there. Thank you very much.

Allen Bolaffi:

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am Allen Bolaffi and I chair the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce in South Australia. When you see the 6 o'clock news we often see a 13 or 14 second snapshot which is designed to give us a view on world events, be those world events in Bosnia Herzegovina, the United States or Israel. Very often it is a view that is tainted with the views of the reporter, the photographer, the journalist or the news editor. Tonight we have been treated to a most interesting and honest personal perspective of the current crisis in the Middle East.

Israel is a very dynamic country, the Middle East is very dynamic. Making predictions about tomorrow you can only do with the benefit of hindsight. We have heard tonight about Israel's position in the Middle East vis-a-vis its neighbours and Ehud's brutally personal view on where he thinks things can go. I believe we all have a better understanding of what was on the 6 o'clock news last night. Ehud, you have given us a clear insight into the psyche of the Israeli people, what drives them and the great lengths that they believe they have gone in undertaking the path towards reconciliation. For this, we thank you.

The friendship between the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce and the Hawke Centre shares three common attributes, most of which we have heard tonight. They are passion, commitment to a cause, and innovation and entrepreneurship. The Chamber and the Hawke Centre have both grown together from very humble beginnings and we will continue to go from strength to strength together with the leadership of Elizabeth Ho and Dr Basil Hetzel, we will both continue to grow. Ehud, on behalf of all of us, I say thank you very much, may your work grow from strength to strength and we look forward to hearing of your success in the future.

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