Uri Avnery 9.11.02
Dear Amram Mitzna
I don’t know you personally. We
have never talked to each other. But I have been following your activities
from afar - ever since, during the Lebanon war, you did something that
impressed me deeply: you resigned your army post as a protest against Ariel
Sharon’s mad adventure.
Senior officers, who sacrifice their careers on a point of
conscience, are rare in any army, and in the IDF even more so. That needs
moral courage, which, to my mind, is more important than physical courage on
After Menahem Begin (a man who
respected integrity and decency) brought you back to high command, I was
frequently angry with you when you tried, as Officer Commanding Central
Command, to appease the settlers. In spite of that, I hoped against hope
that you would become Chief-of-Staff, knowing that in the new army formed
during the years of occupation and oppression, there is no chance for a man
of principle to be appointed to the highest army post. That is reserved for
the Mofazes and Ya’alons.
Now you are a candidate for
another high office: chairman of the Labor Party and chief of its election
campaign. I hope you will win. If you do, I shall not envy you.
You will inherit a party that has come to the brink of
the abyss. During 20 terrible months, it was Sharon’s despised kept woman,
the same Sharon you protested against when he caused havoc in Lebanon. Now
the Labor Party has helped him to cause even worse havoc in the Palestinian
territories. Shimon Peres has convinced the world that the Bad Sharon, the
man of Sabra and Shatila, has become the Good Sharon, a real peacenik.
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has done the dirty work, giving a Labor Party alibi to
a policy of executions, destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure,
demolition of homes, uprooting of trees, expropriation of land and setting
up settlements at a crazy pace.
Such a party will lose the
elections by a knock-out. Who needs a second Likud? Certainly not the
pensioners and unemployed, invalids and one-parent families, whom the Labor
Party is wooing now, after not giving a damn for them for years. Neither do
the Arab citizens, whom the Party is trying to seduce by a lot of chatter
about “a political horizon”, while not even bothering to wash the blood off
The Labor Party is courting
disaster, and that would be a disaster for the nation at large. The extreme
right will wield unbridled power. It will destroy any chance for peace for
tens of years, perhaps for generations, perhaps forever. The Labor party
will not even play the role of an opposition. It will leave a black hole
It you win the nomination, you
will have to change this situation dramatically and rapidly, and in the
middle of an election campaign to boot. That will be an immense challenge.
No party creates new political assets during elections; it can only realize
assets accumulated throughout the years. The voters have learned that
election promises are worthless. And now you are called upon to do something
without precedent: to change the substance and the image of your party in
the middle of an election campaign.
That is unprecedented, but not
impossible - on one condition: that your message be unequivocal,
straightforward and sharp, without stuttering, without hesitation, without
demagogy, without tricks, without gimmicks.
Election experts and all kind of
“strategists” will tell you that you must first use left-wing language, so
as to gain the leadership of the party, and later right-wing language, in
order to win the voters of the center. If you do that, you will fail. Time
is much too short. And that is not your way, anyhow.
Your only chance of passing the
test is to be you, express you own truth and state it clearly and honestly.
The message must be simple and
- Israel has no future without
- Peace is possible, if we are
ready to pay the price.
- There is a partner to peace.
The great majority of the Palestinian people want peace. Yasser Arafat wants
peace. (If you run away from that name, like the cowards do, your message
will lose its credibility.)
- Peace means a Palestinian
state, the Green Line border with mutually agreed changes, Jerusalem the
capital of the two states, evacuation of all the settlers from the
- All settlement activity must
stop at once. The money must be used for economic growth and social
- Obligations and resources must
be shared equitably.
- An immediate cease-fire must
be achieved, the IDF must be withdrawn from the Palestinian towns and
- The peace negotiations must be
resumed from the point at which they stopped at Taba; final agreement to be
achieved within a year.
This is a clear alternative. It
will present the voters with a real choice. You must promise that if the
right wins, the Labor Party will not join a “National Unity” government.
Will this assure you of victory
at the polls? Of course not. But you will have a reasonable chance, while
the present way will surely lead to inevitable, shameful defeat.
Even if the right wins this
time, this clear program will allow the Labor Party to become a fighting
opposition, whose banner will attract all those who will be disappointed by
the right. It will be poised to re-conquer power. The opportunity will come
when the public is finally fed up with the methods of brute power and
oppression, which lead only to endless bloodshed and economic and social
devastation. Many people, more than one would believe, are waiting for that
Much courage is needed for going this way. In the past, you
have proved that you have this kind of courage. Let’s hope that you have it