Even on his day off, his "Golan day," the
speaker-phone in Effi Eitam's Isuzu Trooper never stops ringing. The
presenters of the morning current-events programs want his reaction,
the anchors of the evening current-events programs want his
presence, rabbis want to offer their support. Politicians from the
National Religious Party put out feelers; liaison people in the
Likud court him. And there's an important donor calling from Los
Angeles. A hawkish strategist from Washington. Benjamin Netanyahu's
office is on the line, too. So is the Prime Minister's Bureau.
Brigadier General (res.) Effi Eitam, 50, is still not ready
to be specific, but his political strategy will probably go like
this: First, realize the potential of seven to 10 Knesset seats of
the religious Zionist movement, and then, after the elections, hook
up to the Likud in one way or another. Move toward the center of
Eitam's aim is to turn the national religious
camp into a kind of bridgehead, a national avant-garde movement.
According to Eitam, the Zionism of normality has run its course. So
the mission of religious Zionism now is to lead the entire country
toward a new horizon, a new purpose: to establish the Temple.
He was born in Tiberias in 1952 and grew up in Kibbutz Ein
Gev, on Lake Kinneret. Here, in the kibbutz bomb-shelter, he
experienced the massive Syrian shelling. He went through the 1967
Six-Day War at the edge of the kibbutz with a team of anti-aircraft
gunners. Six years later, in the Yom Kippur War, he hid with a
bazooka in the water ditch outside Nafa Camp on the Golan Heights.
He fought against infiltrators on Har Dov along the border with
Lebanon, and against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. He fought for 30
years. He fought all his life, and he always felt the frontier
situation into which he was born is a heroic one.
wake of the crisis of the Yom Kippur War, Eitam became religious.
His feeling was that after the great collapse, after the great
challenge, some sort of meaning had to be found. Shortly afterward,
he moved to the Golan. He and his wife, Illit, established a home in
Moshav Nov. They have eight children, four of whom are currently in
active military service, two of them in the Egoz reconnaissance
Does the entire country have to go through the same
process he did? Is it incumbent on Israel to be a state of returning
to religion? Eitam says that the whole of Zionism is a return to
religion. First the body and the blood circulation and the muscles
were restored to it, and now the time has come for the soul to
return, too. If he becomes prime minister, will he form a
return-to-religion government? Of course. He doesn't want religious
coercion and he doesn't believe in religious legislation, but the
national leadership has to ensure that the State of Israel thinks
about its self and its selfhood. And that will happen, of that there
is no doubt. All the signs say so.
I. Arabs out!
Effi Eitam, are we at war?
"We are in a war that was
forced on us. There can be no more just war than this. The State of
Israel gritted its teeth for a year and a half and tried to find
every crack: Camp David, Sharm al-Sheikh, Mitchell, Tenet. But there
are moments when a nation has to stand up for its life. It has to.
Because if it doesn't do that, it plunges down a slippery slope.
What is the danger we face?
The danger is the man
who shouts: A million shaheeds to Jerusalem! A person who shouts
such words is certainly not a partner. Worse: Anyone who shouts that
is by his very presence endangering the entire Middle East. If he is
not contained, he will hook up with Iran and Iraq and lead a jihad
on Jerusalem. He is liable to create a kind of extreme Muslim
alignment that, on the one hand, will be armed with weapons of mass
destruction and, on the other hand, will perpetrate intensive
internal terrorism inside the country.
"If we go ahead and
do the nonsensical thing of folding up behind some virtual fence,
the [Arabs'] intoxication of victory will bring about a general
assault on all of Israel's borders and terrorism that will not rest
for a minute. In the end, it will bring about Israel's collapse.
"That is why I think the danger lies in the deterioration of
the region into a fanatic religious war that will not be able to be
stopped other than by the use of terrible means. I want to make it
clear that I do not think we should use weapons of mass destruction.
But I do think that in order to avoid a situation like that, we have
to vanquish [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat along with Iraq and
Iran as one package. It is impossible to talk with them, impossible
to effect a conciliation with them, they have to be vanquished.
There is no other way."
Are you saying that a certain war is
necessary in order to prevent a more terrible war later?
"Absolutely. The State of Israel cannot afford to have
regimes like [those in] Iran and Iraq cross a line of nuclear
capability. The model of a balance of nuclear terror will not work
against regimes like that."
What you are saying is that a
preemptive strike has to be launched against them before they
develop a nuclear capability?
"Certainly. If there will be
no one else to do it, we will face the same dilemma that [Prime
Minister Menachem] Begin faced when he bombed the reactor in Iraq
[in 1981]. In retrospect, it is clear that he was amazingly brave
and that he was absolutely right. So in my opinion, we will have no
choice, unless the Americans do it first."
If so, we find
ourselves at a critical point of time such as we have never known,
not only in the Palestinian context, but in the regional strategic
context, do we not?
"Certainly. But I think that within this
context, the opportunity will be created to deal more deeply with
the Palestinian issue."
What has to be done with regard to
"The immediate solution consists of three
elements. First, get rid of this leadership. Second, to enter Area A
[under full Palestinian control] and uproot the military terrorist
capability. Third, to make it clear that there will be no foreign
sovereignty west of the Jordan River. I am not sure that this is the
time to organize what will happen east of the Jordan. But as for the
area west of the Jordan, we have to state that no sovereignty will
be established there other than that of the State of Israel."
What do you mean by getting rid of the Palestinian
leadership? To kill Arafat? To expel the 1,000 people around him?
"To put them on trial. To arrest all those people and put
them on trial. Simply that. To conduct Jerusalem trials and place
those murderers on trial according to the criteria of international
Do you think that is a practical idea? Will the
international community accept that?
"I see it as a moral
issue. People say that the occupation corrupts. I say that not
making war on murderers corrupts. When a mass murderer sits in
Ramallah and enjoys a kind of protection, that is corruption. After
all, that man is a murderer. A murderer murderer murderer. So he has
to be placed on trial. In what way is he different from Eichmann? In
what? I would not be scared if he were sentenced to be hung."
So that is the first element. What about the second element?
If you were minister of defense, would you order the reconquest of
all of Area A?
"I would order the Israel Defense Forces to
enter into the whole of Area A. To restore full security control in
all parts of Judea and Samaria."
To go into Nablus?
"To go into Nablus, yes. To settle in Nablus, no. But to
create a situation in which there are no command posts, no chain of
command, no military industry. No military capability."
Isn't that liable to exact a terrible price in blood? Isn't
it liable to entangle us in a general war?
opposite, I think. If we don't do that, and if we go on bleeding
like this and our neighbors smell blood, then things are liable to
reach a state of all-out war. I do not say that there are no risks
in an operation like this. But in my estimation, the risks are
reasonable. There will be no Lebanon and Beirut scenarios here. But
in any event, we have to understand that what now hangs in the
balance is Israel's very ability to function. What we are facing is
an existential danger.
"Arik [Ariel Sharon] says that we
will win, but [only] in the end. It will be hard, it will take a
long time, but we will win. Whereas I say that it has to be fast,
with a quick decision. With the use of IDF strength on a large
scale. Arik is afraid that if we topple the Palestinian Authority,
we will be dragged into a general war with the Egyptians and the
Jordanians and others.
"I say just the opposite. It is
precisely this continuing situation, in which Israel is weak and
stuttering and bewildered and crying, that invites intensified
ecstatic processes on the Egyptian and Jordanian street. Therefore,
if we do not act quickly and decisively, the regimes there will have
no choice but to follow the lead of the street."
doesn't a war mean an endless number of killed?
"We have an
endless number of killed now, too. We are being killed day after
day. Infants and women and children."
And the third element
you are proposing is to assert unequivocally that Israeli
sovereignty will extend to the Jordan River?
"Yes, with no
beating around the bush. No beating around the bush. In the long
run, the political division between us and the Palestinians will be
two states on the two sides of the Jordan River. That will be the
basic configuration. What we will say to the Palestinians is that
the main lesson from the crisis of the Oslo paradigm is that there
will not be another sovereign state west of the Jordan. There will
be no partition. The only state in the world of the Jewish
civilization needs a minimum of territory. It has to be a reasonable
state. Not gigantic, not insane, not the Tigris and the Euphrates. A
What is the reasonable minimum as you see
"The western Land of Israel. All of it."
what will become of the Palestinians?
"For that a regional
solution will be needed. It is inconceivable that of all the
resources in the Middle East, the country that is poorest in land
should have to bear the problem of the Palestinian Arabs with its
depleted resources. The Egyptians and Jordanians have to be told
that they need to contribute their share."
What share will
the Egyptians have to contribute?
"Sinai. Egypt has to offer
the territorial reserves of Sinai for the Palestinians in the Gaza
Strip. The desirable situation is that the residents of Gaza will
get territory in Sinai, and will be able to receive citizenship in a
sovereign Palestinian state that will be a two-lobed state. Its
central lobe will be Jordan, but it will have another lobe in
Will this Palestinian state in Sinai come in place
of Gaza or in addition to Gaza?
"I don't think it will be in
place of Gaza. Not everything has to be solved now. But what has to
be solved is a problem that Israel clearly cannot solve by itself.
And the problem of Gaza is a human and demographic and social
time-bomb that Israel clearly cannot solve by itself. Even if the
Palestinians are given the Katif Bloc [the section of the Gaza Strip
where most of the Jewish settlements are], that will not solve the
problem. Even if they are given Ashkelon. The only area that can
give the people of Gaza living space is the empty territory of
Do you also foresee a population being drawn from
Gaza to Sinai?
"Yes, definitely, without a doubt."
And what about Jordan? What will its contribution be?
"Jordan will ultimately have to be the political and
territorial venue for the national aspirations of the Palestinian
Arabs. I don't think [King] Abdullah should be undermined. Israel
does not have to be involved in that. But I believe that
evolutionary processes of democratization in Jordan will give
greater representation to the Palestinian people there."
what will become of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza?
"They will be residents without the right to vote. We have
to obtain an interim settlement regarding their status. Not on the
status of the territory - on their status. They have to be given a
choice between enlightened residency with us or dark citizenship in
the Arab states. The Arabs in Judea and Samaria will be able to make
a free choice between a situation in which they will be Palestinian
citizens who are residents of Israel, or citizens of their country
who reside in the Palestinian state in Jordan and Sinai."
And what will induce them to cross to the other side of the
Jordan? To emigrate?
"I don't want to be hypocritical. But I
will put it like this: We do not need a declared emigration policy
that encourages the emigration of Arabs. I think that we have to
sincerely offer them an alternative of residency. Of course, whoever
does not accept will have to be told: Your place is not with us. In
a case like that, not even a wink is needed."
Are you for or
"I am against easy solutions. I could tell
you, let's do transfer. Let's take all these Arabs from Judea and
Samaria and the Galilee and the Negev, and expel them. I think that
is a solution that could be politically enticing. A lot of people
are ready to listen to a statement like that today. But I do not
make that statement because it is a prevarication. First of all,
morally. I think that anyone who wants to live with us under the
conditions of the State of Israel and under rules saying that Israel
is a Jewish state, can live here. Transfer is something that it's
not right to talk about. I would not deal with it, either as a
political option or as something that can now be swallowed from a
moral point of view."
That is in the normal course of
things, but what if a war breaks out?
"War is a game with
different rules. I don't think that professors who support peace
feel uncomfortable in the Green House that is in the middle of the
campus of Tel Aviv University and was once the mosque of the village
of Sheikh Munis."
So, in a war, the uprooting of a
Palestinian population would be a possibility?
"The State of
Israel will not force individuals to change their location. People
who live in Judea and Samaria will live there and neither they nor
their land nor their homes will be touched. But if a total war is
forced on us, a zero-sum war, the result could be that there will be
a similar Sheikh Munis somewhere else, too. I want to emphasize: I
would not want that to happen. I see that as a bad and bitter
result. I am not winking and not hinting. On the contrary, I am
proposing a regional solution to prevent that. But if they do not
meet us halfway, and if there is no regional solution and the
Palestinian offensive continues, the dynamic will shift toward a
total war that is liable to inflict a tragedy on the Palestinian
Are you talking about 1948 redux? A repeat of what
happened in 1948 in the areas of Judea and Samaria?
course. If the alternative is the suicide of the State of Israel and
if a war is forced on us, then in war, behave as in war. I can
definitely see that as a consequence of a war, not many Arabs will
And what about the Israeli Arabs?
"Israel is making a big mistake with the Israeli Arabs. It
is according legitimization to a process that cannot be seen other
than as the Arab minority's betrayal of Israel. Sheer betrayal.
Therefore, if we do not place a warning sign in front of the Israeli
Arabs, they are liable to cross lines that we will then have to
demarcate anew, and we will be forced to engage in a very difficult
struggle with people who are citizens of the country.
not in favor of depriving them of the right to vote. On the
contrary. But I say that the current leadership of the Israeli Arabs
will bring us and them into a frontal clash in which we will have to
reconsider the ability of Israeli democracy to permit that public to
go on taking part in it."
What are you actually saying?
"I am saying that the Israeli Arabs are in large measure the
ticking bomb beneath the whole democratic Israeli order inside the
 Green Line. Even today, in the Galilee and the Negev, a de
facto autonomy of theirs is being created, which could in practice
turn Israel into the bubble of Metropolitan Tel Aviv. Into a kind of
pipe-state: a country of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv-Haifa road.
Therefore, I say that the State of Israel today faces an existential
threat that is characterized by being an elusive threat, and elusive
threats by their nature resemble cancer. Cancer is a type of illness
in which most of the people who die from it die because they were
diagnosed too late. By the time you grasp the size of the threat, it
is already too late to deal with it."
So, according to your
viewpoint, the Israeli Arabs, too, are liable to find themselves not
"The Israeli Arabs will remain citizens of the state
if they do not cross the red lines. It's possible that when a
Palestinian state is established in Jordan and Sinai, they will
prefer to move their right to vote to the place where the fate of
their people is decided, but that is still a long way off. It is
still too soon to deal with it."
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