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Likud's Plan for Territories Is Built on Outdated Vision

An agreement forcing Palestinians to accept humiliation would not last

FOLLOWING weeks of accusing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of trying to make peace with charlatans who will do anything to gain their ``real'' objective, the eventual destruction of Israel, Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu finally has come up with a plan of his own.

Mr. Netanyahu's plan, introduced to Likud's central committee on Oct. 19, is presumably designed to ``rectify the blunders'' inherent in the recent Israeli-PLO agreement in three different areas:

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First, Netanyahu insists that the current agreement will result in a Palestinian state that poses a mortal danger to Israel. Although a Palestinian state eventually may emerge, Netanyahu has not explained how a small, demilitarized Palestinian state could constitute a mortal danger in the face of Israel's military might.

A Palestinian state is not a Trojan Horse. On the contrary, maintaining indefinite control over a restive population will turn the entire West Bank into a Trojan Horse.

Mr. Rabin knows and has said that even under the best conditions of peaceful coexistence, Israel's military power remains its ultimate guarantor. The Palestinians are not foolish enough to sacrifice a state they will have gained after so much toil and blood for a reckless adventure against Israel.

Second, Netanyahu charges that the agreement will lead to the abandonment of the settlements. Undoubtedly some of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank will have to be removed or relocated. But it was the Likud government that embarked on building dozens of ``political'' settlements in densely populated Arab areas to ``create facts on the ground'' with no strategic or security value. Netanyahu's plan will presumably ensure that no Israeli settlement will be dismantled. This again is certainly not a recipe for coexistence but for continued strikes with no end in sight.

Third, Netanyahu accuses the Rabin government of imperiling the future of Jerusalem in its haste to make a deal. Yet nothing in the agreement necessarily endangers the future of Jerusalem. All leading Israeli government officials insist that Jerusalem will remain a united city as Israel's capital. In fact, most Palestinian leaders also support the concept of a united city. Within this framework, however, Palestinian rights in the city must be acknowledged. Some speak of extraterritoriality, others suggest a solution fashioned after the Vatican, and yet others speak of a shared municipality. Whatever the solution, even Netanyahu must agree that the Palestinians have legitimate rights in the city that has served as a microcosm of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence over the past 27 years.

To correct the ``evils'' of the Rabin-Arafat agreement, Netanyahu's plan calls for creating several areas of Palestinian self-rule without any territorial continuity between them, leaving the Jordan River as Israel's political and security border.

Thus, the Israeli security zone, according to the plan, will include all of the Jordan Valley and the region north of the Dead Sea, surrounding Jerusalem on all sides; Israel will retain control over united Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.

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What makes Netanyahu believe that his plan would ever be remotely acceptable to the Palestinians remains a puzzlement. It is possible that under severe pressure exerted by Israel and the United States, the Palestinians may settle for less than their minimal aspirations. But for how long could such an agreement endure? If this generation of Palestinians is forced to accept a humiliating settlement, the next generation will not and will rise in violent defiance again and again. And if this generation of Israelis is willing to rule over other people against their will and forfeit its moral principles, the next generation will refuse.

In a healthy democracy, there is a need for a loyal opposition that can render constructive criticism and offer well-reasoned and well-articulated alternate plans to those of the government. The problem with the Likud leaders is that they fail to grasp that time and circumstances have changed. Their plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rooted in an archaic ideology of ``Greater Israel,'' which ignores the wishes of the majority of Israelis and usurps the Palestinians' right to determine their own future.

Netanyahu's plan is a classic case of putting the party's outdated platform over Israel's national interest.

Having imposed party discipline on its members to vote against the Israeli-PLO agreement in the Knesset, the Likud leadership has doubly failed on an issue with such national and moral implications. Netanyahu has failed to demonstrate the moral courage to free his Knesset members to vote their conscience and he has failed to prevent three defections. Several more Likud members would have supported the government plans had they not feared retribution.

It is almost humorous that the Likud leadership blames the Rabin government for introducing a new ``Trojan Horse'' into the ``impervious'' walls of Israel. Even more alarming is the doomsayers' worship of the status quo as they pretend to offer an alternative born in confusion and shortsightedness. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHELCSPS.COM.

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