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Politics

Bad Dreams

17 November 2002

Bad Dreams

By Gwynne Dyer

I had the dream again last night. This time, it was about Orthodox Jews who were praying at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, ambushed in a narrow alley on their way back to their one-square-block ‘settlement’ in the middle of Hebron city Twelve Israelis are killed, mostly from the military escort that goes with them almost everywhere in Hebron.

That settlement was actually removed after the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Treaty of 1996, but in my dream it is still there today, and there is no Palestinian state. Israeli are still all over what we used to call the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and their gunships are firing rockets into Gaza City in revenge for the Hebron attack. The whole Middle East is on the brink of war. Crazy, I know, but it comes every night.

I used to have another dream like this a long time ago, only then it was about World War Three. In that dream, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in early 1962, not late 1963, so Lyndon Johnson was already president when they found the Soviet missiles in Cuba. He blew it, of course.

Johnson was the best US president of the past half-century so far as domestic affairs were concerned, but he was unsafe at any speed on foreign affairs. Look what he did with the Vietnam war. Well, he did the same with the Cuban crisis, and the missiles flew, and everybody died. Bad dream, but I haven’t had it for decades now.

Recently, though, I’m having this weird, highly detailed dream in which Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated before the peace treaty with the Palestinians, not afterwards. Do you recall that incident when a Jewish right-wing fanatic was caught with a pistol at one of Rabin’s rallies in November, 1995, long before some of the settlers who were forcibly removed from the West Bank as part of the peace settlement actually shot him down in front of the Knesset in late 96? Well, in my dream, Rabin is killed by the first guy, BEFORE the peace was signed.

I knew Rabin a bit, in the way that journalists get to know the politicians they interview, and he clearly understood that he might be killed if he made peace with the Palestinians. Like Michael Collins making a peace with Britain in 1923 that left the Protestant Unionists in control of a quarter of Ireland, he knew that a ‘land for peace’ deal would enrage the no-compromise fanatics, and that they might take revenge by assassinating him.

As they did, both in Collins’s case and in Rabin’s, and it was only the luck of the draw that an ultra-right-wing Jew got Rabin before an Islamic militant from Hamas or one of the other Palestinian rejectionist groups did. The two species of fanatics totally agree that the land between the sea and the Jordan river should never be divided (though not about who should own it).

But I don’t think it ever occurred to Rabin that he might be killed just for talking about a compromise peace, even before he actually made the deal and closed down the settlements. In the dream, that’s exactly what happens — and there is no peace deal. Not then, and not later. It looks at first as if Rabin’s heir, Shimon Peres, will win the election after Rabin’s murder on a sympathy vote, but then Hamas deliberately pushes the Israeli electorate into the arms of the anti-peace candidate, Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, by carrying our a vicious bus-bombing campaign.

Netanyahu stalls for three years, fending off the feeble pressure from some plump and greasy nonentity called Bill Clinton who occupies the White House for most of the 90s. (I forgot to mention that in my dream George Bush, who would never have let Netanyahu get away with it, lost the US election in 1992.) Then in 1999 a well-meaning but clumsy general called Ehud Barak wins power back for Labour in Israel and tries to restart real peace negotiations — but by then Yasser Arafat is even older, sicker, and more indecisive, and Barak’s own coalition cabinet threatens to fall apart every time he offers to trade concessions with the Palestinians.

Eventually his cabinet does fall apart, and the frustrated Palestinians explode into a new uprising that involves regular suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, and the frustrated Israelis elect Ariel Sharon, of all people, to deal with it. (Yes, I know, it’s unthinkable that Israelis would let Sharon near power again after all that he has done. But in the dream, they do.) There’s over 3,000 Palestinians and Israelis dead already, and a new Middle East war coming up.

Crazy, I know, and it’s just not plausible that one man’s premature death could change the world so much. (On the other hand, think what would have happened if Kennedy had died early….) The Middle East of the real world isn’t all that great a place, but at least the terrorism has died down and a couple of Arab countries are experimenting with some sort of democracy. It could be a whole lot worse.

In the dream, it is. And now I can’t wake up.

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To shorten to 725 words, omit paragraphs 4 and 7. (“Johnson…now”; and

“As they…own it”)

NOTE TO EDITORS: Given how literal-minded some people are, you may want to flag this piece in some way as an instructive fantasy, not straight analysis. I leave it to your discretion.

For your own information, I did know Rabin a bit, and at the end of one interview we did discuss Michael Collins. He knew.